Arizona is down, but not out after loss to UCLA
Larry Hogan / Arizona Daily Wildcat
PASADENA, Calif. — As the saying goes, when it rains, it pours.
For Arizona on Saturday night, it rained, then poured, then hailed in a 66-10 loss to UCLA at the Rose Bowl.
Scary injuries and lackluster performances from all three phases of the game were the headlining issues.
In wins against Washington and USC, the Wildcats played with the motto “gotta eat” in the back of their mind. On Saturday, Arizona didn’t seem to have much of an appetite.
But one game does not define a season. It didn’t when Arizona upset Oklahoma State or USC. It didn’t when the Wildcats were blown out by Oregon 49-0 or fell in nail-biters to Stanford and Oregon State.
A 56-point loss won’t be easy to overcome, but this season is far from over for Arizona, who already has surpassed expectations with five wins.
Now, the Wildcats have three games to get one win for bowl eligibility.
“We all have to look ourselves in the mirror,” center Kyle Quinn said. “We have to wake up with a new hunger, a new desire and play better than that because we’re embarrassed from how we played tonight. We have to represent our school, our town and our coaching staff better than we did tonight.”
Arizona fell to 5-4 on the season, 2-4 in the Pac-12 and 0-3 on the road. Against the Bruins and the Ducks, the Wildcats have lost by a combined 115-10.
They will return to the friendly confines of Arizona Stadium bright and early on Saturday for an 11:30 a.m. kickoff with Pac-12 bottom-dweller Colorado, but the larger problem of Arizona’s road struggles looms.
In front of large crowds, the Wildcats have struggled. With the startlingly small crowds in Tucson this season, Arizona is 5-1.
The Wildcats have only topped 50,000 fans once, against Washington for Family Weekend, while games at Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Ore., and at the Rose Bowl on Saturday had a combined attendance of over 140,000 fans.
Fans leaving home games at halftime certainly don’t help the cause, but it’s also not why Arizona has its head in its hands after sitting pretty a week ago.
“I was real embarrassed with how we played and it starts with me as a head coach,” Rich Rodriguez said. “We didn’t block ‘em, we didn’t get off the press coverage, didn’t get open, didn’t throw it right, didn’t run it right. Didn’t call plays right. Wasn’t anything we did good.”
Arizona is not a ranked team or a Pac-12 South contender. With its defense, Arizona is at best a good, and at worst an average team.
It certainly isn’t as bad as it played on Saturday night. It was supposed to be a battle for running back supremacy between Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey and UCLA’s Jonathan Franklin, but Carey wasn’t quite ready to be mentioned in the same breath. He finished with a season-low 54 yards and had a touchdown in garbage time.
Franklin, on the other hand, set a UCLA career record for rushing yards in the first quarter and finished with 162 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries.
On defense for Arizona, linebacker Marquis Flowers had 13 tackles and a sack, but that was the only remotely positive thing in a disastrous defensive night that saw UCLA score on 10-of-14 possessions, including nine touchdowns, and tally 600 yards. And that wasn’t even the worst of it.
Quarterback Matt Scott has been nothing short of spectacular for the Wildcats this season, but on Saturday that wasn’t the case.
Scott went 15-of-25 for a season-low 124 yards and was held without a touchdown for the second time this season, but on one play in the second half on Saturday none of that mattered.
A week ago, Scott had a concussion scare when he was on the receiving end of a helmet-to-helmet hit from two USC defenders, and proceeded to throw up on the field and be removed from the game for Arizona’s final drive.
With 6:17 remaining in the third quarter, Arizona trailing 45-10, it looked like Scott might not be so lucky on this latest scare.
As Scott attempted a throw from his own end zone, a Bruins defender tackled him and it looked like he his head struck the defender’s knee or thigh. After Scott laid motionless for what felt like minutes, and struggled to rise to his feet, the medical staff walked him to the locker room as Scott’s mother came down to the sideline from the stands to see what happened.
B.J. Denker and receiver Richard Morrison took snaps at quarterback to close out the game, and it might make sense to have them do the same against a mediocre 1-8 Colorado football team on Saturday. The Buffaloes should be an easy win, but nothing is certain.
As long as Scott is able to return, the Wildcats can still win most, if not all, of their last three games against Colorado, Utah and Arizona State.
“We just gotta get back to the drawing board,” linebacker Jake Fischer said. “This one’s going to sting, but we’re all men and we’re going to grow from this.”