Arizona alright with Alamo Bowl

SAN ANTONIO — Arizona quarterback Nick Foles returned to his native Texas with four straight losses, no national ranking and a third consecutive eight-win season as the best the Wildcats can do.

Maybe not a triumphant homecoming, but Foles isn't complaining.

"It's not what you're expecting, but that's where you are," he said. "It's a lot better than not having six wins."

Arizona (7-5) is bringing the Pac-10 back to the Alamo Bowl for the first time since 1994, after the game ended a 15-year run with the Big Ten to become the Pac-10's top game after the Rose Bowl. But with No. 2 Oregon and No. 5 Stanford headed to BCS bowls, the Wildcats fell to the Alamo Bowl while plummeting the final month of the season.

They lost their final four games and are playing for yet another eight-win season against No. 16 Oklahoma State (10-2) on Wednesday night.

The Wildcats say they're not stagnant. They're satisfied.

"Most definitely," running back Nic Grigsby said. "Especially from where we came from."

The Wildcats insist progress is being made under seventh-year coach Mike Stoops, who won three games each of his first two seasons. Eight wins and one bowl victory — over then-No. 17 BYU in the 2008 Las Vegas Bowl — is the best Stoops has done so far.

Arizona was crushed 33-0 by Nebraska in last year's Holiday Bowl, yet midway through this season, the Wildcats appeared to be making a leap. They had knocked off then-No. 9 Iowa, built their record to 7-1 and entered November ranked 13th in the nation.

Then everything crashed.

A nationally televised, prime time showcase with then-No. 10 Stanford spiraled into a 42-17 blowout loss. Southern California won in Tucson for a sixth straight time. Oregon ran away from the upset-minded Wildcats on its path to the national championship game, and two blocked extra points haunted Arizona in a double-overtime loss to Arizona State.

It was an agonizing end to a monthlong slide.

The Wildcats say they've put it behind them.

"It's very disappointing losing four straight," Grigsby said. "We played the top teams in the Pac-10 toward the end of the season. We were in all those games. We didn't come in with the right mindset and we fought too late."

Defense doomed the Wildcats down the stretch, giving up 200-plus yards rushing in three of those losses. Foles took his share of the responsibility, too, during a season in which he'll likely become just the third Arizona quarterback to throw for 3,000 yards.

The last time Foles played in the Alamodome, he was a Texas prep star on his way to surpassing Drew Brees' records at Austin's Westlake High School, about an hour from San Antonio.

This time, Foles wants to back up his belief that the Wildcats are improving. The junior said earlier Arizona teams weren't competitive like the Wildcats were in their last four losses.

"We're right where we're supposed to be," Foles said. "Everything happens for a reason."

Offensive lineman Adam Grant doesn't see the Wildcats as stuck. A sixth-year senior, Grant arrived to a program that went 3-8 his first season and is still in transition under Stoops.

He says leaving with a third eight-win seasons would be fine with him.

"Just to go to a bowl game was a big deal for us. We were trying to scrape for 6-6," Grant said of his first couple seasons. "But our goals are higher than they were before. We're trying to get to the biggest bowl we can."

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