Rich Rodriguez is not accustomed to this kind of 2-4 start at Arizona with his worst previous start 3-3 in his first season of 2012. That came after a 3-0 start that season including a 59-38 victory over No. 19 Oklahoma State in Tucson.
His first six games (the midway point of the season) thereafter before this year: 4-2 in 2013, 5-1 in 2014 and 4-2 last season.
Since the Wildcats joined the Pac-10 in 1978, a 2-4 start or worse has occurred only nine times, including this season. Not once in the previous eight times has Arizona emerged with a winning record. The closest the Wildcats came was 2006 when, in Mike Stoops’ third season, they finished 6-6 after a 3-1 November that included a victory at No. 25 Washington State.
A five-year stretch from the John Mackovic-to-Stoops eras (2003 to 2007) included starts of 2-4 or worse.
In the 2004 through 2007 seasons under Stoops, the Wildcats always produced big victories in November to offset the early-seasons concerns.
ARIZONA WHEN STARTING 2-4 OR WORSE IN PAC-10/12 YEARS (1978 TO NOW)
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Stoops’ 2004 team upset No. 18 ASU in Tucson in the regular-season finale, finishing 3-8 after a 1-5 start. The 2005 team routed No. 7 UCLA 52-14 in Tucson in the ninth game of that season, one in which Arizona started 1-5 and finished 3-8 again.
The 2006 and 2007 seasons solidified Stoops’ nickname as Mr. November as the Wildcats turned around 2-4 starts with memorable 3-1 runs in the last month of the season, including the win over Wazzu in 2006 and the upset of No. 2 Oregon in Tucson in 2007 in the second-to-last game of the season. Arizona finished 5-7 that season.
The 2003 and 2011 seasons included 1-5 starts that claimed the coaching stints at Arizona for Mackovic and Stoops, respectively. Mackovic was fired after five games while Stoops lasted those six games.
The only other seasons Arizona started 2-4 or worse was in 1980 in Larry Smith’s first season and 1991 under Dick Tomey in a season that included 13 starting players missing one or more games because of injuries with three that suffered season-ending injuries.
Smith and Tomey, much like Stoops in 2004 through 2007, came up with big victories late in those seasons that made Arizona followers continue to have faith in the program.
Arizona upset second-ranked UCLA in Tucson in the seventh game of the 1980 season. Tomey’s 1991 team beat USC 31-14 in Tucson a week before “The Streak” ended with a 37-14 loss at ASU.
Will Arizona be relegated to hanging its season on another upset victory in the last six regular season games this year, perhaps November again?
This has become another Arizona season without a Rose Bowl and one of trying to make the most out of nothing once again. The 38-year stretch without winning the Pac-12 title outright has left a stigma on the program.
Cubs fans have waited 108 years to celebrate a World Series title. They may have to wait excruciatingly longer if their team falls below expectations and does not win the National League pennant and World Series. The saying “there’s always next year” will tear at the soul of Cubs fans like never before if that happens.
Arizona’s “faithful” is getting to the point that it is a foregone conclusion that each season will be lost without a finish in Pasadena. The fans are numb to it now instead of frustrated. Some day, wins in November will not be required to save the season but instead take the program to heights only imagined.
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.