Arizona Football

Jedd Fisch: ‘We feel the program turning, turned’

How do you evaluate a team that struggled to beat an inferior team in Stanford one week (yet win) and then look at times impressive against one of the better teams in the country (and lose) in another?

Probably, not go overboard either way in what you see. What I do know – and many do – is Arizona hasn’t been better than it is now in more than six, maybe seven years.

And, of course, that’s all good. Still, where it places in the overall scheme of the Pac-12 is anyone’s guess, but many have UA at No. 8 or No. 9 – still. The Pac-12 is, as we all know, top-heavy.  

But, Arizona is inching closer. At least it showed signs of that on Saturday night after falling to Washington 31-24 at Arizona Stadium.

Jedd Fisch isn’t into moral victories, but it sure sounded like it Saturday night.

Keeping No. 7 Washington to just 31 points and playing it closer than any other team has this season is a good sign.

Heck, Washington went into Saturday’s game beating teams by 32 points in all four wins this season.

Late Saturday night, Arizona coach Jedd Fisch did some politicking. Or maybe convincing his team is right there. This/close …

“We’re a good football team. We finished a little short in this one,” he said. “Maybe the next one we won’t. We feel the program’s turning, or turned, whatever the right word is.”

No doubt. Had this game been played in the last five years it would have been unwatchable. Saturday, it was watchable. Saturday, it was interesting. It was encouraging.

“It took a while to build it and recruit the way we want to recruit and bring the right people in here and get the coaches the way we want them, and get the players in here to believe in what our program is,” Fisch said. “I believe our players believe that. You’re not going to win every single game, or not yet, but we are going to keep fighting badly. I think our guys walk away proud with how they played. Disappointed on the outcome and fired up to go play USC.”

That will easily be Arizona’s biggest test – on the road, another top 10, the Heisman Trophy winner, many UA players from Southern California. Yada, yada, yada.

Arizona goes in a 22-point underdog. But remember, the Wildcats were a 20-point dog against the Huskies on Saturday night and handled themselves well.

More importantly, Arizona seemingly has found a capable quarterback in Noah Fafita, given the health of Jayden de Laura. It’s also done well enough with a host of runners in replacing Michael Wiley. Tetairoa McMillan is or has turned into a star.

“They are a better run team than they were a year ago, by far,” said UW coach Kalen DeBoer. “We knew that that balance would be something that would help them.”

And the defense has remained more consistently good than not.

“We competed well, we executed well,” said UA safety Dalton Johnson of defensive coordinator Johhny Nansen’s thoughts on the defense. “Just got to put it behind us, focus on USC. He was super proud of us; he was letting us know how he loves the way we play.”

Who wouldn’t? Arizona played admirably.

“Our defense played outstanding,” Fisch said. “But not surprising. Our defense has played great all year. And everybody just wants to come up with a reason why. The reason why is because they play great team defense. That they respect one another, trust one another, love one another and play for each other. And that is what it’s all about.”

Isn’t that novel? And isn’t that how good teams are eventually made – or started?

So, here Arizona is 3-2 overall and 1-1 in the conference. Just where Arizona stands in the conference race is anyone’s guess, There’s still a long way to go, but Saturday’s game looked promising.

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