As the clock ticked down on the Washington Huskies’ battle with number one ranked Alabama in the College Football Playoff, a thorough drubbing at the hands of the Nick Saban-led Crimson Tide, Washington football faithful still had to be proud of their team.
After all, this was a program, not a decade prior, that had finished an historically awful 0-12 season. From 2001 to 2015, the Huskies had seasons of 1-10, 2-9, 5-7 and a smattering of 7-6. Sound familiar? It should.
Arizona and Washington have held similar paths throughout most of the new century. Both programs with both horrendous duds and decent, bowl-bound seasons.
In 2014, it looked as if Arizona might have turned the corner. Spurred by their freshman studs Anu Solomon and Nick Wilson, the future looked bright for Arizona football.
However, it was Washington who would soon turn the corner. For the past three years under Chris Peterson, the Huskies have won 10+ games and have appeared in both a Rose Bowl and the College Football Playoff.
Saturday night’s showdown between Arizona and Washington proved to be a microcosm of the programs’ recent history. Even with special teams blunders and left-handed quarterback giveaways, Arizona hung around.
At halftime, with a lead of 17-13, there was a genuine belief that the Wildcats were up to the task. That they had caught up with Washington, the Hawaii game was a fluke, and they were ready to meet the moment.
Until they weren’t. Saturday night’s dance with the stronger, bigger, overpowering Huskies proved too much for the Wildcats with the game ending, 51-27.
Just like the past three years, while Washington has risen to the occasion, Arizona couldn’t quite get over that hump. For three years in a row, the Huskies have proven they have belonged among the conference and nation’s elite.
The Wildcats aren’t there, not yet.
However, there is hope for a better future for this program. Grant Gunnell, Boobie Curry, and Christian Roland-Wallace lead a promising freshman class. The running back corps looks stronger than ever. Colin Schooler and Tony Fields and the Youngs (Christian and Scottie) will most likely return for their senior seasons.
The reality is that there’s no knowing when Arizona football will finally turn that corner, finally get to that coveted Rose Bowl or College Football Playoff. It could be two years or twenty. Coaches and players will come and go and there will be plenty of ups and downs in between.
For now, Arizona is squarely focused on USC. One week at a time, one game at a time, and one day the Wildcats will be ready for primetime.