Don't let the small crowds and poor ticket sales fool you: San Antonio is Wildcat Country.
At least for former UA football player Blake Custer, who along with Clear Channel Outdoor San Antonio put up four billboards in the city this week touting Arizona's Texas connection.
Boasting that "Texas is Wildcat Country," the signs feature Texans Justin Washington, Nick Foles, David Douglas and Trevin Wade. One is situated perilously close to the Alamodome, site of tonight's Alamo Bowl game against No. 16 Oklahoma State.
"They're great," coach Mike Stoops said Tuesday. "It was really neat to see."
Stoops, after all, has made recruiting Texas a priority during his seven-year tenure as the UA's coach. Jacksonville Jaguars standout Mike Thomas and Houston Texans rookie Earl Mitchell, both former UA stars, grew up in the Lone Star State. Next year's team will have a distinctly Texas flavor, too: University of Texas transfer Dan Buckner and freshman linebacker Rob Hankins should have major roles, along with the four on the UA's billboards.
Arizona's aggressive marketing campaign hasn't rattled Oklahoma State, which - like Arizona - relies on Texas recruits. Coach Mike Gundy said Tuesday that he was actually impressed."
"I like the billboard, to be honest with you - it's a good-looking billboard," he said. "I think it's all good, it's all fun."
THE LAST TIME
It's been 68 years since Wildcats earned upset
Date: Oct. 16, 1942
What went down: Rambling Robert Ruman accounted for 134 net yards and outdueled star Ralph Tate as the Arizona Wildcats upset Oklahoma A&M (now Oklahoma State) 20-6 at Varsity Stadium in Tucson.
How it read: The Star's Vic Thornton called the game, held in front of 10,000 fans and under the new arc lights, "pulsating" and "kaleidoscopic." He wrote:
The victory was especially sweet for the Wildcats for it erased the sting of that 41-14 handed them at Stillwater last year, and brought the standings in the six-game series to three-all.
Turning point: OSU kicker Marv Salmon missed a PAT attempt that would have tied the game in the first half, giving Arizona the edge it needed. The Wildcats' Herb Vail recovered a fumble on the Aggies' next possession; facing fourth-and-goal from the 5, Ruman flipped a pass to end Tommy Black to make it 14-7. "Big Jack" Irish, UA's kicker, missed the point-after attempt following Arizona's final score.
Stats that matter: Ruman, a left halfback in Arizona's single-wing offense, led all players in total yardage. The Wildcats connected on 5 of 13 passes for 26 yards and forced two turnovers. Ruman, doubling as the UA's punter, averaged close to 44 yards on 22 punts.
It's history: Arizona improved to 4-0 with the win but - dogged by injuries - finished 6-4 in 1942, the team's last season before World War II forced a two-year break. OSU finished 6-3-1 and continued playing during the war.
Slumping Wade relishes opportunity to be spoiler
Mired in the biggest slump of his college career, Trevin Wade has two options.
"You can either quit, or you can keep going," Wade said. "I'm keeping going."
The Arizona Wildcats' junior cornerback could be the key to upsetting Oklahoma State tonight. Wade is among a handful of players assigned to stop Justin Blackmon, the Cowboys' top wide receiver and reigning Biletnikoff Award winner.
For the first time in months, Wade is playing as if he can pull it off. The preseason All-American is practicing with a swagger not seen all season.
"He's had great focus out there at practice, and he's been a good leader," defensive coordinator Tim Kish said. "I think his preparation has probably been the best it has been all year, so from that standpoint we're enthused with that. It's usually a reflection of his play at the end of the game."
Wade sparked the Wildcats with an interception return for a touchdown against Iowa in Week 3 only to fall off the map - and down the depth chart - later in the season. Wade blames a deep thigh bruise and a series of poor decisions: The more he tried to make plays, the more the Wildcats' aggressive cornerback was exposed. He lost his starting job to true freshman Shaquille Richardson late in the season only to regain it before the UA's Territorial Cup loss to Arizona State.
"I got beat when I was hurt one game, and then some little things happened. I'd get beat on one play, and then I'd get so caught up on that one that other things would happen," he said. "I realized, you've got to keep playing. You can't stop everybody all the time."
Wade will have his own cheering section tonight. About 40 family members and friends will pile into the Alamodome sporting "Wade's World" T-shirts, a nod to his weekly segment on Channel 4. The Wildcats' junior plans on making them proud.
"I've been playing pretty good and practicing well," he said. "All I can do now is show it."
Texas native, senior punter to enjoy comforts of home, dome
A native of Spring, Texas, UA punter Keenyn Crier passed on a chartered flight for something much more fitting.
Crier drove three hours to San Antonio earlier this week in his truck, arriving at the team hotel just in time for mandatory check-in.
"I got a late start. I just didn't want to be late," he said.
Crier's come a long way - and not just by truck.
The Wildcats' punter arrived at the UA four years ago as a painfully shy, heartbreakingly homesick freshman. He'll leave with a bachelor's degree in sociology and an outside shot of making it in the NFL.
"I was thinking back to when I was a freshman, and how much I've done along the way," he said. "I've overcome all that stuff."
Crier will go out in style - perhaps no player on the Wildcats' roster is more excited to play in a dome. Crier played in both the Alamodome and Astrodome while a star at Westfield High School. Both experiences were great ones, Crier said - he did not have to worry about wind, a wet ball or snow.
"The only thing you have to worry about is kicking it where it's supposed to go," he said.
Crier won't go far after today's game. He's already moved back to Spring, a suburb of Houston. Crier will reside in his hometown as he prepares for the NFL draft.
But that will come later. For now, Crier said, he's enjoying one last game with his teammates and friends.
"I'm excited, and I'm ready to savor it," he said. "It's the last college game, and I'm ready to play it in my home state. I parked my truck here, and I don't think I've moved it yet."
getting a shot
Sophomore back-up gets start
Kyle Quinn might not look nervous - but he is.
"You can't hide it. It's your first college start," said Quinn, a sophomore. "Whether its nerves or excitement, once kickoff starts, I'll be ready to go."
Quinn was promoted to first-string center earlier this month, when senior Colin Baxter - a team captain with 48 consecutive starts to his name - opted to undergo surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee. Quinn spent the entire regular season as Baxter's backup but admits he's in new territory. Luckily, the Northern California native has plenty of support. Quarterback Nick Foles is one of his closest friends.
"He's been my No. 2 supporter, since Colin's my No. 1 supporter," Quinn said with a chuckle. "There's tight competition for that."
Quinn's mom and dad will fly to San Antonio from California with a special guest - his grandfather, Carl Schelbert.
"He's getting on the plane for the first time in many, many years," Quinn said. "It'll be cool to see him."