Be patient: one game won’t define Arizona football’s first season under Jedd Fisch

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Two things:

First, Arizona will beat northern Arizona on Saturday in Tucson. No matter how close you are to the Wildcats, they would win this game even on their worst day.

Second, what happened last Saturday, losing to San Diego State 38-14, was unacceptable. Arizona isn’t expected to win much this season, but they should be competitive, especially at home and not against one of the best teams in the conference.

One is in the future, the other in the past. Neither game is expected to mean much when it comes to how the 2021 season will be remembered.

This season is all about progress that, starting from the bottom, won’t go a linear path.

There will be times, like Week 1 against BYU, when Arizona gets ahead of the schedule. These will be joined by what we saw in the next game, where you would be forgiven if you thought you were watching the 2020 squad.

Of course, there were good times in the bad game and bad times in the good. The hope is that by the end of the season there will be more good than harm, especially in the home stretch.

That’s not to say that nothing that happens from week to week matters, nor that the dashboard is irrelevant. It’s sport, after all, and the goal is to play well and win.

In the absence of the latter, the former takes on even more importance.

That’s what made the performance against San Diego State so disheartening. As a team, Arizona did not perform well with the result being a blast at home.

The odds are good. Arizona will look like a very different team on Saturday night.

Offensively, points will be scored. The line will open holes for the Cats’ running backs to pass, quarterbacks will have ample time to find their receivers, and the receivers themselves should open regularly.

On the other side of the ball, the defense can generate a pass rush while bottling up the running game. Don’t be surprised, either, if the Wildcats get their first turnovers of the season.

The game is only the third time in the last 14 games Arizona come in as the favorite, and unlike the last two, they are expected to win. This is the type of game that you can’t get much out of, unless of course Arizona loses or struggles in a win.

That is, if the question after the game was whether Arizona was good or if they perhaps used the game to take a proverbial turn. The point is that we already know the answer to the first question (they are not) and as for the second, no turn can be turned in an individual game.

Arizona’s resurrection will occur over the course of one or more seasons. Steps will be taken, but there is still a long way to go.

As you watch the games, do your best to keep the big picture in mind. Sloppy play and questionable practice are not acceptable, but other than that most of the problems can be explained by the lack of talent on the roster.

We all knew it would take a while to fix, and sadly, there’s 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 wouldn’t have changed that much, just as the next 60 minutes shouldn’t do much to strengthen the manager’s case.


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