A football season that started with high expectations has quickly cratered for the Arizona Wildcats, who are 0-2 for the first time since 1981 after falling to BYU and Houston.
The union between quarterback Khalil Tate and new head coach Kevin Sumlin has produced disappointing — and head-scratching — results on the field, while the Wildcats’ young defense has not improved as expected. One could argue it has even taken a step back.
Over 51,000 fans flocked to Arizona Stadium for the opener against BYU, but the UA will be lucky to get anywhere near that number this Saturday when it hosts an FCS team in Southern Utah.
It’s easy to understand why fans might be frustrated with the direction of the program, but Arizona athletic director Dave Heeke is urging them to “believe in the process and stay the course” as it goes through a regime change.
Here is what he wrote to kick off his weekly Wildcat Wednesday newsletter:
Last weekend our football team traveled to Houston for game two of our season. While not the outcome we were looking for, I assure you that our program is focused on the mission of improving week to week. Football coaching transitions are always difficult as players and coaches learn new systems and measure potential strengths and opportunities. However, I encourage all of our fans to believe in the process and stay the course with this program. During the trip to Houston, I had the opportunity to be around the football team and coaches. It is clear there is great optimism and sense of purpose. I am excited by the strong student-athlete and coach leadership in this program, and I am looking forward to the rest of this season.
Arizona players and coaches are obviously disappointed by the rough start to the season, too, but they preached patience as well.
“Anytime you get a new coaching staff and a whole new system, especially under a young quarterback, you expect growing pains and guys are still learning it and guys are still trusting it, so you can expect growing pains anytime there’s a new coaching staff coming into the picture,” said senior wide receiver Shawn Poindexter.
“The guys still believe. We all still believe in Coach Sumlin’s philosophy. We believe in our coaching staff as well. We can turn this around.”