The Arizona football team is surging, just today being ranked in the top 25 for the first time in two seasons, coming in at the modest spot of No. 25 in the Coaches poll and No. 23 in the Associated Press poll.
Few know the full story how all this has happened, save for the heroics of the seemingly unstoppable Khalil Tate. And perhaps even fewer have seen the heroics, save for a few stories nationally and locally on the redshirt freshman who gobbles up yards like quick-moving lawn mower.
The national audience can be excused, given the games have been on often-criticized Pac-12 Network and it’s been fairly late at night. But where have the local fans been? Yes, maybe they’ve jumped on the bandwagon emotionally, but they haven’t financially.
Two weeks ago, there was an announced crowd of 48,000 (it looked a lot smaller than that) and Saturday night the crowd was said to be 42,822. Apparently, the locals haven’t embraced Arizona’s recent success as much as some would have thought. And, it was a Homecoming Game, nonetheless.
I expected 50K plus.
I’ve long said Tucson fans – with some exceptions – are a fickle bunch, but this is a bit perplexing. These guys are fun to watch – even in my objective view. Heck, over the last month – and since Tate’s emergence – I’ve been proven wrong each week, given I’ve picked the opponent every time. Now, I’m sold, no matter what happens next week against USC in Los Angeles. At the very least, Arizona is fun to watch. Now, if only people watched.
How did the Wildcats get here?
The easy answer is they are playing out of their collective minds. Who would have thought Arizona would be 6-2 through eight games?
But, Tate’s fantastic runs have become contagious and not just on offense, but on defense. Arizona’s defense has done a remarkable job of doing what it has to to give the offense a chance. Every. One. Of. them.
They are highlighted by Colin Schooler, Tony Fields II, Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles, Jace Whittaker and the rest.
“We’ve got a whole defense doing their job,” Schooler said.
Then, on offense, Tate has become the Pied Piper of Pain. Even without runner Nick Wilson (injury), Arizona’s running game is seemingly unstoppable. J.J. Taylor has proven to be Tate’s perfect complement.
And, well …
“That guy’s a monster,” Nunley said. “Khalil Tate for Heisman.”
In time, in time.
For now, how did this team, given up for dead a month ago, get to be what it is today? It’s played beatable teams and played beyond belief against the likes of Washington State. It’s given the Cats hope for a sound future.
“I’ve felt good about these guys since August,” Rodriguez said.
“I’ve felt good about practice. We have a small senior class and they do a great job with leadership. And they got a lot of pride. But you gotta work for it. You have to show your approach every day. The people that have supported us have stayed supportive. There’s still a lot of football left and a lot at stake. They’ve put themselves in a position to be more relevant with a lot at stake in the last month of the season.”
With bowl game projections starting to come out, Arizona is predicted to play in the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio or the Sun Bowl in El Paso or the Holiday Bowl in San Diego. There is still a lot to be determined for the Wildcats. With only one home game left, maybe the locals will come and see them for the final time this regular season.