Reputation rules out
Arizona not surprised with underdog status
Posted: Thursday December 24, 1998 07:37 PM
TUCSON, Arizona (AP) -- Arizona coach Dick Tomey is not surprised that oddsmakers have made his fifth-ranked Wildcats underdogs in their Holiday Bowl matchup with No. 14 Nebraska.
"People like that probably realize that at least one or two of Nebraska's losses they've had because of the inconsistency at tailback, and he's back. DeAngelo Evans is back," Tomey said Monday. "They've broken in a couple of new quarterbacks, and now they've got a guy who's played six or seven games.
"Plus, just from a reputation standpoint, it's hard to make them an underdog in any game."
Although Arizona carries a gaudy 11-1 record into the December 30 game, while Nebraska is 9-3, the Cornhuskers are three-point favorites.
The Wildcats scrimmaged against their scout team's Nebraska-style option on Sunday.
"It was scary," Tomey said. "But it was good, because it gave us a little wake-up call. The option run well is such a devastating offense, particularly the way they run it. We just needed to know we weren't quite up to speed."
Tomey put his team through one final practice in Tucson on Monday morning, then turned them loose to gather in San Diego Tuesday afternoon. Some will take the team's charter flight. Many of the players who live in Southern California are being allowed to take their cars so they can go home first.
"We're giving them 30 hours to drive over and see their families and then get down there," Tomey said. "We'll also give them another 30 hours off Christmas Eve day to go home, and we've got several guys taking several teammates with them, which will be nice."
The two teams are staying in hotels that are about 300 yards apart.
"So there will be a lot of interaction," Tomey said.
It's one of the things he likes about the bowl system designed to reward teams at the end of the season.
"That's why a lot of us coaches say if you're going to have a playoff, have a four-team playoff after the bowl games, because bowl games are just really a good time," Tomey said.
He said he believes that arriving in San Diego on Tuesday is just about right to get ready for the December 30 contest.
"We're spending a little more than a week, but Christmas is in the middle," he said. "We're getting over there in time to get a little practice in and then take some time off for Christmas. If we went after Christmas, we'd be a little short of time.
"And Nebraska gets there the same day. They've been so good at bowl games, we're just trying to do what they do."
Defensive back Leland Gayles, who suffered a sprained neck in a frightening collision with teammate Marcus Bell against Washington, probably won't play in the game, but is practicing and will be in uniform.
"I think to put him into action after being out for two months, we'd probably be pushing it," Tomey said.
It will be the Wildcats second game this season at Qualcomm Stadium. They beat San Diego State there 35-16 on September 24.
"We are glad, however, that the stadium has sodded in the field because that baseball diamond was not our first choice," he said. "The only way we handled it as well as we did is I mentioned to the guys, 'If you want to play pro football. That's where you play.' You know, 'Shut up and play.' It was awful."
Despite the disappointment of narrowly missing a first-ever trip to the Rose Bowl, and despite a reputation for not "traveling well" to bowl games, the Wildcats have sold their entire allotment of 11,500 tickets.
"It's not just a bowl game with no meaning," Tomey said. "It's a very meaningful game for us. We've got a chance to finish in the top five of the nation if we can win it, and win 12 games, which is an extraordinary accomplishment."
Copyright © 1999 CNN/SI. A Time Warner Company.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.