First, Arizona is going to beat Northern Arizona on Saturday in Tucson. No matter how down you are on the Wildcats, they would win this game even on their worst day.
Second, what happened this past Saturday, losing to San Diego State 38-14, was unacceptable. Arizona is not expected to win much this season, but they should be competitive, especially when at home and not facing one of the top teams in the conference.
One is in the future, the other in the past. Neither game should mean much when it comes to how the 2021 season will be remembered.
This season is all about progress which, when starting from the bottom, will not travel a linear path.
There will be moments, like Week 1 against BYU, where Arizona looks ahead of schedule. Those will be joined by what we saw the following game, where you’d be forgiven if you thought you were watching the 2020 team.
Sure there were good moments in the bad game and bad moments in the good. The hope is that by the end of the season, there will be more good than bad, especially down the final stretch.
That’s not to say nothing that happens on a week-to-week basis matters, nor that the scoreboard is irrelevant. This is sports, after all, and the object is to play well and win.
Absent the latter, the former takes on even greater importance.
Which is what made the performance against San Diego State so disheartening. As a team Arizona did not play well, with the result being a blowout at home.
Odds are good Arizona will look like a much different team Saturday night.
Offensively, points will be scored. The line will open up holes for the Cats’ running backs to get through, the quarterbacks will have enough time to find their receivers and the receivers themselves should get open on a regular basis.
On the other side of the ball, the defense may generate a pass rush while bottling up the run game. Don’t be surprised if the Wildcats get their first turnovers of the season, either.
The game represents just the third time in the last 14 games Arizona enters as the favorite, and unlike the last two they are very much expected to win. It’s the type of game you can’t take much from, unless of course Arizona loses or struggles in a win.
That is, if the question after the game was whether or not Arizona was any good or if they perhaps had used the game to turn a proverbial corner. The thing is, we already know the answer to the first question (they’re not) and as for the second, no corners can be turned in any individual game.
The resurrection of Arizona will happen over the course of a season, or seasons. Forward steps will be taken, but there is much ground to cover.
So as you watch the games, do your best to keep the big picture in mind. Continued sloppy play and questionable coaching are not acceptable, but short of that most issues can be explained away by not having enough talent on the roster.
We all knew that would take time to be corrected, and unfortunately there is no way to look a few years into the future to see if Arizona has risen from the ashes. But if you believed in Jedd Fisch two weeks ago the last 120 minutes of football should have done nothing to change that, just as the next 60 minutes shouldn’t do much to bolster the coach’s case.