Going into Saturday's game against Washington State, the Arizona Wildcats have numerous advantages on the field. Along with the luxury of playing at home, they have a dual-threat quarterback, and one of the nation's top rushers in Ka'Deem Carey.
That's all fine and dandy, but it's nothing compared to what the Washington State will have on its side, specifically Pullman's beloved Palouse Pirate, Mike Leach. Leach isn't just a football coach. He's a symbol, a personality, and no matter the level of competition the Cougars will always have an added edge as long as he is on the sidelines. When a guy takes time during his Monday afternoon press conferences to offer up dating advice, give a shout out to the infamous "Popcorn Guy" and even go in depth on trick-or-treating techniques, then the team has no choice but to mimic his swag.
When it comes to on field performance, it's safe to say the Wildcats are ahead of the Cougars, at least on paper. But in terms of straight up moxie, swagger and persona, it's not even close, that goes to none other than the Pirate himself. His presence is something I don't think any other major college program has anything close to in terms of inspiration outside of X's and O's.
If having a figure like Leach isn't enough, the Cougars have unbelievable fan support on their side this weekend. Cougar fans are truly one of a kind, and it shows throughout the year. It's very difficult to watch a sporting event and not seen a Cougar flag.
During the Tip-Off Marathon of college basketball this week, the Cougar could be seen waving in the second row while the Kansas vs. Duke game was going on. What makes this so unbelievably impressive is that the Cougars weren't playing, didn't have a game coming up, and don't even have either of those teams on their schedule. The Cougar basketball team wasn't only absent from that contest, but the event was in Chicago, nearly 1,600 miles from anything resembling a Cougar athletics team. That's dedication, especially since somehow those Coug supporters managed to land second row seats while the fans of the "Izzo-Zone" were thrown up in the nosebleeds.
If Coug fans were able to have the flag fluttering on national television during a preseason college basketball game which didn't involve WSU, imagine what it'll be like Saturday in Arizona each time the Cougars make a big play. There won't be boos, there will be cheers, very loud, very liquid inspired cheers, and I wouldn't be surprised to even hear the WSU Fight Song at some point during the contest.
Speaking of liquid-inspired cheering, Arizona fans need to go ahead and ask the people of Auburn what it's like when Cougar fans come into town. It's an experience that no party involved will likely ever forget.
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles is representing the Wildcats well with the records he's setting in the NFL, but on Saturday, there won't be much to smile about in Tuscon. The Crimson and Gray will leave their mark in the desert.
-- Michael-Shawn Dugar is the sports editor of The Daily Evergreen.
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