For the last nine months, Nick Foles and his UA teammates have worn matching black wristbands bearing the same five words: "All in. No looking back."
The Arizona Wildcats' mantra now has a new meaning.
"This is where we really have to stick together, when everything's against us," Foles said. "These teams usually break up, and those teams we're about to play don't feel sorry for us at all."
Arizona's players vowed Wednesday to keep plugging despite a five-game losing streak that led to Monday's firing of coach Mike Stoops. Defensive coordinator Tim Kish will lead the team for the rest of the season; the Wildcats are idle this week, then will face UCLA on Oct. 20 - next Thursday night - at Arizona Stadium.
The future of Arizona's program remains up in the air, fueled Wednesday by rumors about Stoops' successor.
Former Oregon coach Mike Bellotti, a rumored candidate, told The Register-Guard in Eugene, Ore., that he's unsure whether he wants to coach again. Bellotti and UA athletic director Greg Byrne have known each other for 20 years, since Byrne's father, Bill, was in charge of the Ducks' athletic department and Bellotti was a coach.
"On the one hand, I can see me never coaching again," Bellotti said. "On the other hand, I can see coaching again.
"Deep down, I can envision both."
Meanwhile, ESPN analyst Mark May told a Phoenix radio station that Boise State's Chris Petersen has emerged as the UA's top target. Like Bellotti, Petersen has a relationship with Greg Byrne that dates back to their time at Oregon.
"I think that when you look at that, the closeness they have and the rest that they have," May told KTAR's "Burns and Gambo" show, "he's the top choice."
Arizona's coaching search won't affect seniors such as Foles and Trevin Wade, who were shocked by Monday's firing and won't have the opportunity to play for the next coach.
Wade compared Stoops' sudden departure to a family loss, and for good reason. The former UA coach recruited Wade when he was a little-known cornerback out of Round Rock, Texas, and promoted him to first string as a sophomore.
Wade said he'll miss Stoops' fire but must learn how to play without it.
"You don't quit on yourself," he said. "It's like having a death in the family. You can't just sit back and cry all day. You have wake up in the morning and go to work, just like what we're doing.
"We've got to wake up and come to work every day."
Kish will try to make the UA's work more fun. For the second time in as many days, the Wildcats held a spirited - if informal - practice on campus. Foles described "controlled chaos," with the first-team offense facing the first-team defense and second- and third-teamers squaring off against each other.
The quarterback said it felt good to play, and have fun, after a chaotic 48 hours. Foles learned of Stoops' dismissal Monday afternoon, shortly before Byrne summoned the team to the Stadium Club to break the news.
Foles and Stoops later talked by phone for about 20 minutes, though the coach has yet to address his old team. The conversation was "pretty tough," Foles said, in part because of his respect for Stoops; the quarterback transferred from Michigan State to the UA after his freshman season, and worked his way up from the scout team to first string.
Foles said the coach "wants what's best for the team," and that means a solid finish to a season that has come apart quickly.
At this point, there's no looking back.
"We've got to rally around each other now more than ever," Foles said.
"It's us against everybody right now."
On StarNet: Follow the latest on the coaching situation on Ryan Finley's blog at: azstarnet.com/finley
• What: UCLA at Arizona
• When: 6 p.m., next Thursday
• TV: ESPN