Cat Scratches

John Mackovic's team isn't putting up much of a fight.

OK, OK, we get the pattern. The University of Arizona football team can beat really crappy teams and will get its collective head kicked in by good teams. The Cats' three victories are over teams with a combined mark of 4-14, while their three losses are to two undefeated teams and another squad whose three losses have also all come at the hands of undefeated teams.

This doesn't mean that the Cats' season is effectively over, because it has yet to be determined how they'll fare against marginally crappy teams. The UA still has to play a pretty good Washington team and a not-bad USC team, which should be two more losses. But then they also have a horrible Cal team, a really weak Arizona State team and an overrated Stanford team. Who knows--with a little luck, this team could turn out to be just as mediocre as Dick Tomey's last two teams, which were the reasons they got rid of Dick Tomey in the first place.

What I find amazing is how much slack Arizona fans seem willing to give Coach John Mackovic. It reminds me of the movie Breaking Away, where Daniel Stern's character, Cyril, had a dad who just loved to be understanding when Cyril failed. "Oh, that's all right, Cyril," he'd say. (Remember, Cyril was going to take and fail the college entrance exam because his dad's birthday was coming up.)

Arizona fans have all turned into Cyril's dad. Oregon's football team scored more points against the UA than its basketball team usually does. Oh, that's all right, guys. Arizona's down 35-0 and facing a fourth-and-goal from the five and they kick a field goal! Hey, good strategy, Coach. Washington Freakin' State is allowed to come into Tucson and do whatever it wants in a shocking blowout victory. We'll get 'em next year.

No, with Washington State, we should get 'em every year. If Dick Tomey were coaching this team, the fans would be staying away in droves and those who did show up would be howling for his scalp. But with John Mackovic, the crowds are good and the fans yell, "Hey, nice tie you wore against San Diego State."

Maybe this is just a bad team. Wait! Did I say "maybe"? Actually, there's nothing wrong with being a bad team. The only thing that bothers me about this football team is that it appears to quit. Dick Tomey's teams took serious ass-whuppins from time to time, but they never quit. This year's team seems to sag its collective shoulders after a while and then just run out the clock. Of course, it's really hard to tell. It's not like guys are sitting around the gym on Sunday afternoon arguing over when it was that the Cats folded their tent.

"I think it was after the eighth touchdown."

"No, no, it was definitely after the ninth touchdown."

That's like somebody being buried under an avalanche and then trying to determine exactly which snowflake it was that caused the asphyxiation.

Another thing: Even when Tomey's teams got mauled, the other teams on the schedule still considered Arizona to be a dangerous team to play. This year, teams are salivating at the prospect of playing the Cats. Oregon State was unable to reschedule a game it lost due to the September 11 tragedy, so the NCAA allowed it to pick up a November game with Division 1-AA Northern Arizona to fill out its schedule. Now, the Beavers are petitioning the NCAA again, saying, "The heck with NAU. Can we just play Arizona again?"

I'm all for giving Coach Mackovic three years or so to show us something. But how 'bout putting a little more fight in these guys? Based on what I've seen from the remaining teams on the schedule, this season is salvageable. Indeed, a winning season and a bid to a really lousy bowl game is not beyond the realm of possibility. All it would require is taking care of bidness against inferior Cal and ASU teams and then upsetting either Stanford, Washington or USC.

And why put off 'til November that which you can accomplish now? Whaddya say we start with Washington this Saturday and just get it out of the way? I'll be watching, as will tens of thousands of Cyril's dads.

NOTE TO UA RUNNING back Clarence Farmer: When ... the ... other ... team ... has ... more ... points ... than ... you ... do, SHUT ... THE ... HELL ... UP ... AND ... PLAY! There. With the exception of "other," I put that in all one-syllable words for you. Apparently, you didn't get the message when Coach Mackovic benched you for running your fat mouth. You're embarrassing yourself, your team, your school and your adopted community.

As a coach and a fan, I hate all forms of taunting, but I must admit I almost smiled when I saw the shot of you blabbing to an opponent after you scored a touchdown against Washington State and then seeing the Cougar simply point at the scoreboard.

UA BASKETBALL FRESHMAN Will Bynum is the real deal. Jason Gardner had better watch out because Bynum is going to take somebody's playing time.

I actually like Gardner's game, but doesn't it seem that his career is taking on an eerie resemblance to that of UA footballer Ortege Jenkins? Absolute stud as a freshman. Not as good as a sophomore but part of a team that makes a serious run at a national title. Jenkins went on to lose his starting spot as a junior and then had an "Oh my God, is he still here?" senior year.

FINALLY, IT'S NOT NICE TO revel in the misfortune of others, but it is OK to nod knowingly when you read that former UA basketball players Gilbert Arenas and Michael Wright, who both left school early, may struggle to make their respective teams' rosters. They should have come back to win a national title, and I'm sure they're both coming to that realization right about now.

Anyway, Gilbert and Michael, UA football fans want you to know that it's all right, guys.

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