STANFORD, Calif. — In a matchup between a top-10 offense and a top-10 defense, something had to give. The Wildcats defense gave.
In a matchup between two top 15 teams nationally — each with 7-1 overall records and 4-1 records in the Pacific 10 Conference — vying for a spot in the Rose Bowl, someone had to lose.
The Wildcats didn't just lose, they had their hearts ripped out.
The defense that had been praised throughout the season for its dominance and athleticism was annihilated by Stanford and their all-world quarterback Andrew Luck. Nick Foles, making his first start since coming back from a knee injury, looked like he was making the first start of his career.
The Wildcats and Cardinal squared off in a game that pitted two teams that were suffering through the lowest of the lows just a few years ago before making leaps forward in the past few seasons, but Stanford showed it was much closer to being ""there"" than its counterpart from Tucson.
In the bigger picture, though, Arizona didn't just drop to third place in the Pac-10 and lose any realistic hope of reaching the Rose Bowl on Saturday, it was exposed.
And it's our fault.
The media, the fans and the alumni all watched in awe as the Wildcats sprinted out to a 7-1 record to start the season. We all thought that Arizona was good enough to make it to the Rose Bowl for the first time in school history.
But while the Wildcats are good, they aren't good enough yet.
We all thought that Foles was going to go down as the best quarterback in Arizona history. Foles is a good quarterback with tremendous potential and NFL-chances, but we failed to realize that through seven games played he has just 10 touchdown passes and six interceptions. He was outclassed by Luck.
We all thought that head coach Mike Stoops would be the man to take Arizona to the promise land. What he's done up until this point with the program is remarkable, but the team has shown too many flaws this season to enter elite status. He was outcoached by Stanford's Jim Harbaugh.
We all thought that cornerback Trevin Wade would be the rock that carried the defense this season. He has disappeared this year on the field and hasn't taken the step we all expected him to before the season. He was benched for most of the game after being outrun by all of Stanford's receivers.
This year, in terms of end results, is no different from every other year in Arizona football history. The Wildcats will not make the Rose Bowl.
But that isn't really a bad thing. If you take a step back and really evaluate it, the Rose Bowl was probably far too optimistic.
Realistically, the Wildcats are a team with two very good defensive ends — Ricky Elmore and Brooks Reed — and one elite wide receiver — Juron Criner, far and away the best player on the team. The rest of the team adds up to the most balanced group that Stoops has had in years. It just isn't ready yet the way that Stanford is.
Considering the potential of Foles and several other players, the Wildcats could be ready next year — and that's OK. Plus, a season that started with seven wins in the first eight games and will likely finish with at least nine regular season wins is an awful lot to be proud of.
It just isn't the season we thought it would be, and it isn't the season that the Wildcats wanted.
— Tim Kosch is a journalism senior and the sports editor of the Daily Wildcat. He can be reached at email@example.com.