SAN ANTONIO - Mike Stoops often talks about the process, the steps that need to be taken and the work that needs to get done for a team to succeed.
A million tiny victories pile up over the course of a season, he says, whether it's the right play call or personnel shift, recruiting coup or disciplinary action.
With their season in limbo, the Arizona Wildcats want - need - one more win.
"It's been a long time," Stoops said.
The UA will try to win its first game since Oct. 30 when it takes on No. 16 Oklahoma State tonight in the Alamo Bowl.
Mid-level bowl victories typically hold little real importance. But for the Wildcats, it's a tipping point.
Win at the Alamodome, and the program can boast a third straight eight-win season and move past last year's 33-0 Holiday Bowl loss to Nebraska.
Lose, and the questions - about the direction of the program and the bowl game blunders - will reappear. Arizona lost its final four regular-season games to finish 7-5. The Wildcats' last win, a 29-21 edging of UCLA, came the day before Halloween.
"We're just getting the mindset that we're starting over," quarterback Nick Foles said. "A bowl game is a new season."
Led by quarterback Brandon Weeden, tailback Kendall Hunter and wide receiver Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State (10-2) boasts an offense that ranks first nationally in yards per game.
Blackmon is the reigning Biletnikoff Award winner and the nation's leading receiver with 151.36 receiving yards per game. Arizona will try to blanket him with a mixture of zone and man-to-man coverage, with plenty of nickel and dime packages included.
"They're going to throw some different stuff at us, I'm sure," Weeden said. "The nice thing is we have a pretty good game plan in. We feel like we can attack any look they give us."
Improving special teams, Arizona's biggest weakness, will be tougher.
Stoops will replace the team's inexperienced kick and kick-return players with veterans, many of whom haven't played special teams in years. Bug Wright, who missed the last two games of the regular season for violating team rules, will return punts with hopes of sparking a long-dormant facet of Arizona's attack.
"He's much more explosive than what we've had back there," Stoops said. "Hopefully, we can just get on track and create some field position with a little of a change in personnel."
Change has been the theme of Arizona's latest bowl trip.
Stoops gave players three days off with their families last week and shortened the team's trip to San Antonio. The Wildcats have practiced less, and for shorter periods of time. The team even seems to be sporting a new, more serious, attitude.
Players danced "The Dougie" during a post-dinner contest Monday night but appeared businesslike during Tuesday's team luncheon at a local hotel.
The weather seemed to change with them. San Antonio was sunny and clear for most of the Wildcats' trip but turned dreary Tuesday. The Riverwalk's trademark gondolas, usually teeming with people, docked for the most of the day.
Defensive end Brooks Reed and his teammates know the feeling. They can chase the black cloud that's hanging over the program with a win tonight.
It's been too long.
"We have to try to redeem ourselves," Reed said.
• Alamo Bowl: Arizona vs. Oklahoma State
• When: 7:15 p.m.
• TV, radio: ESPN, 1290-AM, 1490-AM, 107.5-FM
GENTLEMEN, START YOUR SCOREBOARDS!
Arizona and Oklahoma State excel on offense - not so much on defense.
24th, 445.17 ypg
Wildcats are third in the Pac-10
36th, 343.25 ypg
Wildcats are third in the Pac-10
Oklahoma State offense
1st, 537.58 ypg
Cowboys are .08 ypg better than Oregon
Oklahoma State defense
91st, 412.83 ypg
Cowboys are eighth in Big 12