Just two weeks ago, the Arizona Wildcats were in a good place.
They were riding a four-game winning streak, were undefeated in conference play and found themselves alone atop the Pac-12 South standings with a 4-1 record.
Less than a month later though, after consecutive blowout losses to Washington and USC, those good times have quickly gone.
They never seem to last do they?
The Cats now sit at 4-3, are second to last in the South (ahead of only Colorado) and have a daunting remaining schedule of at Stanford, vs. Oregon State, at No. 11 Oregon, vs. No. 12 Utah and at No. 24 ASU left to navigate.
To make matters worse, Arizona’s starting quarterback Khalil Tate, has struggled immensely the last two weeks —creating something of a quarterback controversy as fans and media alike have begun to call for freshman wunderkind Grant Gunnell to start in the senior’s place.
Head coach Kevin Sumlin has insisted that Tate will be the starter going forward, but still, the unrest and scrutiny from fans and media has begun to mount with more than half of the season now gone and the team’s chances of a bowl appearance quickly fading.
With all of this as a backdrop, the Cats now begin preparations for their must win game this weekend against the Stanford Cardinal (2-3).
The Cardinal were blown out by UCLA this last weekend and are certainly beatable as they come into the clash banged up, but Kevin Sumlin’s team will still have to be much improved (particularly offensively and in the trenches) from their last two outings if they have any hope of grabbing what would be a huge win on the road in Palo Alto.
Earlier this week, we spoke with several Wildcats about what they’ve seen from Stanford, what the team must do to get back on track after consecutive losses and more.
Here is the best of what they said.
Arizona wide receiver Brian Casteel on Stanford’s secondary: “They’re bigger than USC’s obviously. But they are not unlike any other Pac-12 team we’ve seen. They’re a good group and they’re a disciplined team.”
Casteel on if he’s seen any changes in Khalil Tate’s confidence or attitude lately: “He’s just like any other week right now. He’s just practicing and getting ready to play. There’s nothing really going on with him. He’s fine.”
Casteel on the differences and similarities between Tate and Gunnell: “I mean obviously, Khalil can run, but I know they both got good arm strength and I like playing with them both.”
Casteel on the key to getting the offense flowing again: “Just staying on track, stay on our path. We always try to get at least get four yards on first down and then after that we should be rolling.”
Arizona defensive end Jalen Harris on the key defensively to beating Stanford: “Being physical. They’re a tough team and they’re going to try to come out and run the ball with two tight ends. We just need to be physical as a whole defense.”
Arizona linebacker Anthony Pandy on what stands out about Stanford: “Honestly nothing that we can’t stop.”
Pandy on if its difficult preparing for a team when you don’t know who will be playing QB: “No, our defensive coordinator gets us right every week and prepares us for what we need to be prepared for.”
Arizona lineman Josh McCauley on what he’s seen from the Cardinal’s defense: “They’re fast and they’ve got a lot of experience up front. A lot of seniors on the defense too so they do a lot of different things here and there depending on who they play.”
McCauley on playing against a physical team like Stanford: “This is definitely one of those games where they live in the trenches because they want to establish the run. And I think with where we are at right now that’s definitely something we want to do as an offensive line group too. It’s gonna be a fun game.”
McCauley on what he’s seen from Tate in terms of his attitude when Gunnell has gone in the game: “He’s handled it very well. He hasn’t changed at all in terms of attitude. He’s still over there every time we come off the field, over by us, talking to us, giving us praise, doing whatever he’s got to do. He hasn’t changed at all.”
McCauley on how the O-line can bounce back after rough outing vs USC: “When your quarterbacks are getting hit like that, you take that very personally as an offensive lineman and you kind of put your head down all week and come back on Saturday with an attitude. We’ve got to set the tone early and just protect to the best of our abilities.”
McCauley on the key to beating Stanford: “Start early, establish the run, get points on the board early rather than waiting until later in the game.”
Arizona defensive end JB Brown on what stands out to him about the Cardinal’s O-line: “They’re big, disciplined, young. It’s Stanford so you know they are going to be coached very well.”
Brown on how the defense has prepared not knowing who Stanford is going to play at QB: “Film. You’ve got to look back on who’s played all the games, listen to the media to see who’s practicing and what not. You’ve got to be prepared for any one of them.”
Brown on what he feels the team needs to do to improve on the last two weeks: “Be better in the second half. We played great football the first two halves in our previous two games but then I believe we gave up 38 points against Washington and 24 against USC in the second half. So coming out of halftime we need to be better. As a defense we want to come out and finish strong and we believe that when we do that and play our best football, we can win games like that.”