Wildcats cannot afford to be defined by UCLA blowout
The loss to UCLA was the most embarrassing, least pleasant football game for the Wildcats in a long time. The Wildcats (5-4, 2-4 Pac-12) were dejected on the sideline, befuddled heads dropped in hands.
In the postgame news conference, it was Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez who told media members that this loss will not define the Wildcats or their season.
Then it was senior center Kyle Quinn and junior linebacker Jake Fischer saying the same thing, that a 66-10 loss against UCLA will not define the work they’ve put in and the work they have left to do.
Arizona’s loss means any slim chance they had at still making the Rose Bowl is more than likely done — barring total collapse of UCLA — since the Bruins have taken control of the Pac-12 South.
But this doesn’t mean that the season is over for the Wildcats.
They still have contests against bottom dwellers Colorado this Saturday, Utah next week and the ever-unpredictable rivalry game against Arizona State.
The road just got undoubtedly tougher now that senior quarterback Matt Scott, who led the Pac-12 in passing, did indeed suffer a concussion Saturday night.
Backup B.J. Denker does not have the experience Scott has, throwing for only 12 yards against UCLA. In game action this season, Denker has thrown for just 123 yards and one score.
“We have total confidence in B.J.,” senior center Kyle Quinn said.
“I don’t think [the offense] changes at all,” receiver Austin Hill added. “We’re still going to run our offense the way [coach Rodriguez] wants us to.”
So far, the defining view of the 2012 Wildcats has been the lack of depth they have at every position, including quarterback. Prior to the season, Scott had not taken a hit in any game-like situation in almost two years.
Colorado is the worst team in the Pac-12 by a longshot, and one of the worst teams in the country, dropping a game against WAC opponent Fresno State in Week 3, 69-14.
The Wildcats cannot let the UCLA loss carry over to the future, as they often have done in the past. Each of the last three seasons, blowout losses have turned into losing streaks for Arizona.
Rodriguez’s Wildcats have been more resilient than that, losing close, competitive games to Oregon State and Stanford after being crushed by Oregon in their first road game of the season.
Arizona players will not let the 56-point loss define them or this first season under Rodriguez, but losing multiple games in a row in a similar fashion will define the season regardless of what they say and what Rodriguez tells his team.
Everything is better when you win, Rodriguez likes to say. The food tastes better, the return trip to Tucson is better and players and coaches sleep better.
This loss should make the Wildcats want to fight back.