Cats Narrowing Focus for Holiday Bowl

Dec. 27, 2009

SAN DIEGO – The Arizona football team’s eventful stay in San Diego for the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl continued on Sunday, with the fourth practice in as many days in this beautiful city and a trip to the world famous San Diego Zoo.

The Wildcats turned in a crisp two-hour workout at the University of San Diego, one that Arizona coaches felt was the team’s best of the bowl season. With kickoff quickly approaching, the Wildcats treated today’s workout like a typical “Wednesday of game week” practice, with emphasis on fast-paced action on both sides of the ball to emulate game speed repetitions.

“This was one of the best practices we’ve had,” head coach Mike Stoops told his players after practice. “We have to stay humble and remember what got us to this point. We’ve worked way too hard to not see this thing through. We have to keep our intensity and continue to prepare for a very physical football game.”

Video: Coach Mike Stoops after practice

At this point, three weeks removed the regular season finale at USC, the game plan for the Holiday Bowl is completely in place. Coaches will now begin the task of keeping players focused on the business aspect of the trip, which is, quite simply, preparing to win a football game.

This is not just any normal football game, however. This is the team’s second consecutive bowl appearance and a trip the second-most prestigious bowl game affiliated with the Pac-10 Conference. A win puts the Wildcats at 9-4 on season and firmly amongst the nations Top 20 teams in the rankings.

But, the Wildcats do not seem to be putting any added pressure on themselves. Players have soaked in the sights and sounds of San Diego without compromising their focus at practices and in team meetings. The coming days will be telling as bowl week events continue and kickoff nears.

Earlier today, Arizona players, coaches and support staff visited the San Diego Zoo. A two-hour visit to the park allowed players to relax their minds and take in one of the most popular attractions in the city.

A handful of players were given an up-close look at some of the zoo’s most unique animals including a few different cats. The Wildcats were tamed a bit by their real-life peers, particularly safety Robert Golden who made sure to keep a safe distance from the frisky felines. He was joined by Apai Tuihalamka, Corey Hall, Marcus Benjamin, Brooks Reed, and Chula Vista native Taimi Tutogi.

Next up on the schedule of events will be the Navy and Marine Corps Luncheon on the USS Makin Island. Arizona and Holiday Bowl foe Nebraska will join members of the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps aboard an active Naval vessel at 32nd Street, Naval Base San Diego for lunch, the presentation of the U.S. Grant Sharp Trophy and a tour of the ship.

Later in the day, the Wildcats return to practice to put the finishing touches on game preparations. Coaches were sure to let players know that the final tune-ups will be critical for Wednesday’s game.|

“We have to stay focused on why we are here,” Stoops told the team. “We have to use our skill and diversity to win this game. We have to play well in all three phases of the game. When we have done that, we have been a very, very good team this season. The only way we do that is to practice, prepare and play as a team.”

Kickoff is scheduled for 5 p.m. on Wednesday at Qualcomm Stadium. The game can be seen live on ESPN.


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