ARIZONA FOOTBALL

A change in perception

Wildcats have gained confidence; national profile is on the rise
2010-09-25T00:00:00Z 2014-09-15T09:12:22Z A change in perceptionRyan Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
September 25, 2010 12:00 am  • 

The Arizona Wildcats are quickly running out of firsts.

In the last two seasons, the UA has finished with winning records, advanced to back-to-back bowl games and - following last week's 34-27 win over Iowa - started 3-0 for the first time since 2001.

Arizona's No. 14 national ranking is its highest in 11 years; the team's national profile is off-the-charts.

Just one more first remains: the program's first-ever Rose Bowl.

Arizona will open Pac-10 play tonight against Cal looking to add to its recent run of success - and keep alive its best chance of reaching Pasadena in a decade.

"You can see it," center Colin Baxter said. "Now we go into every week expecting to win."

No longer do the Wildcats celebrate every victory as if it were Thursday night on Fourth Avenue.

Lately, they've won two games for every one they've lost.

A win on Oct. 27, 2007, when Arizona rallied to defeat Washington in Seattle, began a 22-11 run. Since the start of last season, the UA is 11-5.

Thank quarterback Nick Foles.

The Wildcats' starter has been stellar through his first three games, completing 78.6 percent (77 of 98) of his passes for 877 yards and five touchdowns. His quarterback rating of 164.46 is 14th-best in the nation and third-best in the Pac-10; only Stanford's Andrew Luck and Cal's Kevin Riley have done better in the Pac-10.

Foles is a microcosm of the team, wide receiver David Roberts said: confident, cool and - more than anything - unafraid. The Cats' quarterback defeated Iowa by throwing a touchdown pass into a "window" barely the size of a football.

"When it's your first time, you have nerves," Roberts said. "It's not like you don't think you can do it, but there's not that confidence, that 'swag.' He's confident. He doesn't get too high. He doesn't get too low."

A loss today could slow the momentum Arizona has spent three years gaining. Cal (2-1) is averaging 45 points per game on the backs of its two veteran standouts, Riley and tailback Shane Vereen.

Both were stellar in last week's game against Nevada, even though the final score - the Wolf Pack won 52-31 - didn't reflect it. Riley threw for 277 yards and a touchdown; Vereen, a scatback in the mold of former Bears star Jahvid Best, rushed for a career-high 198 yards and three touchdowns.

UA coach Mike Stoops dismissed the notion that the Bears won't be ready for the start of conference play.

"They had a bad game defensively, but Nevada can do that to you," he said. "I wouldn't put too much stock in that."

The Wildcats aren't putting too much stock in their hot start, either.

As well as Arizona has played, it has done nothing to increase its chances of advancing to the program's first-ever Rose Bowl berth.

Yet.

"We can do great things if we really put our minds to it," Foles said. "The key is not to be happy with one game."

On StarNet: Follow the Wildcats as they enter the Pac-10 conference season on Star reporter Ryan Finley's blog at go.azstarnet.com/finley

HUMMING RIGHT ALONG

Since the Wildcats lost three straight games from Oct. 6 to Oct. 20, 2007, they have won twice as many games as they have lost:

3-0

Arizona's record this season (Toledo, The Citadel, Iowa)

22-11

Arizona's record since Oct. 20, 2007

19-10

Arizona's record since the start of the 2008 season

11-5

Arizona's record since the start of last season

TODAY

• What: Cal at Arizona

• When: 7 p.m.

• TV: Ch. 58, FSAZ Plus

• Radio: 1290-AM, 107.5-FM, 990-AM (Spanish)

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Pac-12 South football standings

Team W L T PCT
Arizona 5 1 0 0.833
Utah 5 1 0 0.833
USC 5 2 0 0.714
ASU 5 1 0 0.833
UCLA 5 2 0 0.714
Colorado 3 4 0 0.429

Pac-12 North football standings

Team W L T PCT
Oregon 6 1 0 0.857
Oregon State 4 2 0 0.667
Stanford 4 3 0 0.571
Washington 5 2 0 0.714
Cal 4 3 0 0.571
Washington State 2 5 0 0.286
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