Maybe someone should call up Greg Byrne, the Arizona AD, and suggest he might want to drag his feet a little as he searches for a new head football coach. He might already have the best candidate on the sidelines.
Arizona’s interim head coach, Tim Kish, just threw his name into the hat with a 48-12 destruction of the UCLA Bruins (3-4, 2-2) in his first game as a head coach. Kish, who stepped up from his defensive coordinator role to assume the head coach duties, has been coaching for 36 years, but never employed as a head coach.
It didn’t take even a full quarter in tonight’s game to notice the difference in this team and the one that had been struggling under Mike Stoops, who was dismissed less than two weeks ago after a 1-5 start.
The first question that had to pop up in the minds of the Wildcat Nation after Arizona took a 7-0 lead, the first time they’ve led in a game since their opener against Northern Arizona: Who are these guys?
There was still the potent offense that Stoops had built, but this new remodeled version also played defense (holding the Bruins to 37 yards rushing)… and made their kick attempts!
You could tell there was something different about this team after its first possession of the game. The Cats marched 80 yards in eight plays, taking just 2 minutes and 17 seconds to score their first goal. It was a disciplined, pass-and-run mixture that Nick Foles, the senior quarterback, directed on the march to the goal line.
Not only did Arizona score on its first possession of the game, it scored on every possession in the first half as it ran up an insurmountable 42-7 lead at the half. Six times they had the ball, six times they found the end zone.
Who are these guys?
It took the new-born Cats three minutes and 32 seconds to score a second time, with the exciting freshman, Ka’Deem Carey from Canyon del Oro High School, running it in from the 18-yard line. It was the fourth TD of his college career – and another sign of good things to come as he matures.
As the first quarter came to a close, there was another sign that things are changing. The new Cats were ahead 14-7. The old Cats had been outscored in the first quarter of the first five games, 41-3.
And then they poured it on in the second quarter, opening with an 80-yard drive to make it 21-7 with less than three minutes off the clock.
The defense set up two more scores, covering fumbles that were quickly converted to scores, and Juron Criner pulled in his third reception for a touchdown.
Arizona ran for more yards in the first quarter than they have been averaging for an entire game and piled up more than 400 yards of total offense in the first half, essentially taking UCLA out of the game. The Bruins played like a team with a broken spirit the rest of the way.
The win also lifted the curse that has come with playing FBS teams. The Cats hadn’t beaten an FBS opponent in 10 games – until tonight.
Before the game, Kish had talked about the importance of getting the players to loosen up and have some fun, something that was difficult under the tightly-wound Stoops.
It’s safe to assume they had fun in this one. And it paid off big time.
(Photo: Arizona Athletics)