Arizona Football: On Preparing for the Worst

EUGENE OR - NOVEMBER 26: Linebacker Jake Fischer #33 and nose tackle Lolomana Mikaele #94 of the Arizona Wildcats celebrate Fischer's fumble recovery the second quarter of the game against the Oregon Ducks at Autzen Stadium on November 26 2010 in Eugene Oregon. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)

Yesterday, we tweeted this painful story by our comrades at And the Valley Shook. It's a look back at a meeting in Tucson between the LSU Tigers and Arizona Wildcats during the 2003 season, and it reminded me about perspective.

Let's just say that the 59-13 score was just the beginning of the story. This was at the tail end of the John Mackovic era, and as Billy Gomila writes, the UA head coach wasn't doing himself any favors that day either.

This game got a lot of responses from some of you guys on Twitter. By all accounts, there were more LSU fans than Wildcat fans -- yikes -- and the Fat Tuesday's bar on University was packed full of gold and purple, according to our own Kyle Kensing. The fact that there was a Fat Tuesday bar on University is another point of emphasis, but I digress.

Another meeting against the Tigers in 2006 was arguably as painful.

Willie Tuitama continually found himself on the ground, and it eventually led to one of what would become a series of concussions during his career. Arizona lost 45-3 to the Tigers, who were led by future NFL players in Laron Landry, Ali Highsmith, Jacob Hester, Dwayne Bowe, Early Doucet and one JaMarcus Russell.

Of course, things got better during Mike Stoops' tenure. Tuitama led the Wildcats to their first bowl game in 10 years a little more than two years after that painful loss. Despite legitimacy, however, the Wildcats have still appeared in a few moments of utter embarrassment since.

There was the 33-0 loss in the Holiday Bowl against Nebraska that became a hoot before the game even hit your television set. Then we must discuss the past two games against Oklahoma State Cowboys -- it's arguable those were two defining games that led to the end of the Mike Stoops era.

Last year's 37-27 Oregon State loss was the chopping block for Stoops after UA fell behind 30-6 early in the third quarter before rallying. Finding themselves behind 34-10 against a two-win Colorado team toward the end of last season was much of the same baffling play.

In all these cases, the players' heads weren't where they should've been, and that's a knock on the culture more than a knock on the players' themselves.

Why do I bring these awful moments up? Because we enter a season where little is known.

I'm just preparing you for the worst, really.

Pundits have often placed this 2012 Arizona team fourth in the Pac-12 South Division. The Wildcats could win anywhere from three to six games, though I'm guessing six might be a bit optimistic. Surely, there will be plenty of bad moments to come this season, as a team that's littered with holes and learning new schemes takes the time to gel.

But what can you take away from that season? What does the above list -- specific as it is -- represent?

It's the short-list of most awful moments in the past decade. I know, the Mackovic era could probably double or triple the size of the list, but there's no point in going there.

However, the Rich Rodriguez era is fresh. Taimi Tutogi told reporters yesterday that there was a positive vibe in the air, and that can hold heavy meaning.

Sure, the talent isn't there to expect the Wildcats to compete with the No. 3 USC Trojans, No. 5 Oregon Ducks or No. 19 Oklahoma State Cowboys in 2012 (the coaches' poll is out!).

There's a firm expectation, though. Expect Arizona to fight, and there's an easily-detectable way to analyze that in wins and in losses, regardless of the final outcome.

The list above represents the times the Wildcats didn't fight. Purposely omitted from the list are a number of games against the Ducks and the Cardinal, when the scores turned out equally as bad compared to the above; Arizona only fell short simply in these because they were the worse of the two teams. In reference to the 2011 games against the Beavers and the Buffaloes, the scores turned out not so bad, yet it was the awful starts that had you wondering about the football program's direction.

So how do you prepare for the worst? How do you judge it?

Expectations say the worst will be on the scoreboard and in the win-loss columns. On the field, though, what everyone should expect is everything Rich Rodriguez has said to expect.

Be prepared for the Wildcats to play hard.

After that, you can hope the wins are closer to the number six than the number zero.

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