Originally posted on Fox Sports Arizona  |  Last updated 10/21/11
TUCSON - The fun, apparently, is back for the Arizona Wildcats. And the feistiness, too. At least for a game, and it was a bizarre game that included a male streaker, a brawl and a 48-12 blowout victory for the Cats in their first game since the firing of coach Mike Stoops. For Arizona, all games should be against UCLA ... or so it seems. Its a great feeling. I dont think Ive had that much fun in a long time, Arizona senior linebacker Paul Vassallo said. Just to go out and celebrate all the touchdowns and all the plays with the defense -- to know what we weve been through and have a moment like this, this cant be taken away from every single guy. Its pretty special. Winning does that. Thursday night marked the first time the Wildcats had beaten a Football Bowl Subdivision team since ... well, since they beat the Bruins at the Rose Bowl on Halloween eve in 2010. With the victory, UA ended a five-game losing streak overall and an eight-game losing streak in Pac-1012 play. Let the Tim Kish era begin. Coach Kish did a great job, said UA quarterback Nick Foles, who threw for 291 yards and three touchdowns. Weve had the ability to do it. Its an emotional game, and when you are emotional and you play for coach (Mike) Stoops, you just play the game "When you lose your head coach, its on the players. Some teams collapse -- you see it all the time. But the guys did a great job of rallying together. Foles went on to say that it was one of the most meaningful games of his career given the circumstances. Thats understandable after what Kish said were an emotional 10 days following Stoops' firing last week. But Arizona fought through them. The ghosts of bad plays past were exorcised Thursday night, replaced by big plays and big moments things that had been lacking all season. To wit: Arizona running back Daniel Jenkins had an 18-yard run on Arizonas first play from scrimmage, and UA never stopped moving forward in the quick-kill victory. The Wildcats had five plays of more than 18 yards in the first half, one being an 18-yard touchdown run by freshman KaDeem Carey. Another was a spectacular 25-yard touchdown reception by senior receiver Juron Criner to make it 35-7. Again, this was before halftime. At the break, it was 42-7. Even Arizonas much-criticized kicking game was solid, as John Bonano hit every extra point and added two field goals for good measure. I liked the kicking game, Kish said with a smile. Hes on the good list. Arizona was methodical and calculating -- everything it hadnt been all season. A change of coaches brought about a change of heart. The game, however, was marred by a sideline-clearing brawl between the two teams with just four seconds left in the half. It came just a moment after a male, dressed in a referee uniform, ran out to the middle of the field, created a distraction and then ran off only to disrobe shortly after. Seconds later, the fight broke out. After a few minutes of getting the fight controlled and later cleared, Arizona freshman cornerback Shaquille Richardson and UCLA senior Taylor Embree were ejected. Kish called the fight the black mark to an otherwise-flawless game. Kish said he addressed the fight throughout halftime. Without discipline, you have nothing, Kish said. I thought our guys reacted well in the second half and showed some composure. Those things can happen, especially in games where they are a little lopsided early. He then joked about the streaker: Im glad it wasnt Michael (his son). That was really bizarre, said UA receiver Gino Crump. I didnt even see the streaker guy. I just heard about that. I had never been a part of anything like that. By then, of course, Arizona was well in control. The 42 points are the most the Cats have scored in a single half in their time in the Pac-1012. Arizona finished with a season-high 573 yards in total offense, including 254 yards on the ground. We owned the line of scrimmage offensively, Kish said. Clearly, it was a welcome beginning to the post-Stoops era ... and what will likely be a short Kish era. At least it was his moment and a bit of a refreshing change after 10 consecutive defeats to FBS schools. Kish now has as many wins as Stoops did this season, as Arizona moved to 2-5 overall and 1-4 in the Pac-12. The game provided a little hint of a new beginning under Kish, the mild-mannered interim coach who previously served as Stoops' defensive coordinator. Like Ive said, I wasnt out here auditioning for the head coaching job, Kish said. All the focus was on the team. Its the only thing I cared about. These guys were prepared and had a chance to go out and be successful. Thats all I cared about. Arizona was certainly successful Thursday night, albeit in front of a crowd that was the smallest of the season at 46,565. This is how good it was for Arizona: The Cats scored on all of their first six possessions to take a 42-7 lead, had more rushing yards in the first quarter (125) than they were averaging per game to that point, recovered two fumbles (they hadnt previously recovered a fumble all season) and had back-to-back sacks (they didn't have one of those all season either). On a national stage, Arizona looked like world beaters. It was the equivalent of hitting the lottery for a team that had been down and out for nearly a year. UCLA didnt put up any resistance other than the fight just before halftime, although it was unclear who or what started the fight. By then, however, it was all over for UCLA. Earlier in the day, according to the Los Angeles Times, UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero blogged a message to season-ticket holders and donors that said returning to a bowl is just one of several steps we need to take to get this program to the level we all desire. Arizona knows all about it. But, for at least one game, the Wildcats didnt have to worry much. I had one wish for them once we left the team meeting: I just wanted them to enjoy playing the game, said Kish. I think my wish came true.
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