Arizona football is a tease, and that's OK
The Arizona football team is a tease, there’s no sugar coating that. And Saturday’s 54-48 overtime loss cemented that idea.
A 3-0 start gave rise to delusions of grandeur, and performance in games against Oregon, Oregon State and Stanford didn’t help that.
The Wildcats trailed Pac-12 powerhouse Oregon just 13-0 at halftime in week four, only to falter in the second half and lose 49-0. The 0-for-6 red zone count certainly didn’t help.
In week five, Arizona overcame an early 17-0 deficit and led Oregon State by four points with 5:34 remaining, only to allow the Beavers to spend the next 4:25 driving the ball up the field for a game-winning score. Matt Scott’s game-ending interception helped, as did the 613 yards of total offense the Wildcats surrendered.
Finally, on Saturday Arizona led Stanford by 14 points with 9:13 left in the fourth quarter. For the second straight week, an upset seemed within the realm of possibility.
Then Stanford drove a combined 139 yards on its next two drives, scoring on two rushing touchdowns from quarterback Josh Nunes and sending the game into overtime.
Scott threw an interception on the opening drive of the extra period, and the rest is history.
Now the Wildcats sit at 3-3, and 0-3 in the Pac-12.
For a football program in rebuilding mode with head coach Rich Rodriguez, things aren’t as cut and dry as Ricky Bobby’s “if you ain’t first, you’re last” mantra.
Arizona wasn’t supposed to beat Stanford, but the Wildcats’ offense played out of its mind and nearly put the UA back into the national spotlight.
Scott completed 45 of 69 passes for 491 yards and three touchdowns. Yes, the supposedly run-oriented Rodriguez threw the ball 69 times.
On the season, Scott has thrown for 2,099 yards. As in, Scott has 103 more yards than Geno Smith, West Virginia’s Heisman frontrunner, and 791 more than USC’s Matt Barkley.
Sure, he has thrown costly interceptions three weeks in a row. But so what? No one in their right mind expected him to have this kind of season; it’s just a shame this will be the senior’s only year in Rodriguez’s system. Imagine what he could do in year two.
Ka’Deem Carey staked his claim as the most underrated running back in the Pac-12, rushing for 132 yards and three touchdowns against the Cardinal to give him 670 yards and 10 touchdowns on the season.
Keola Antolin started for the UA at running back in 2011 and parts of 2010, and ran for 12 touchdowns combined.
Oh, and sophomore receiver Austin Hill caught 11 balls for 165 yards and two touchdowns against the Cardinal and has the 11th most receiving yards in the nation.
The UA offense is for real. It’s prolific, it’s fun to watch and it will keep the UA in every game.
For a team that wasn’t even supposed to contend for a bowl berth this season with its shoddy defense — a few decent games clearly didn’t change the fact that the defense is paper thin, in terms of both depth and size — that’s nothing to be ashamed of.
The Wildcats kept it close with two ranked opponents, and in two games against supposed impenetrable defenses, Arizona tallied 1,162 total yards and 83 points.
The UA needs to win three of their next six games for bowl eligibility. Its six upcoming opponents are, in order, Washington, USC, UCLA, Colorado, Utah and Arizona State.
Utah and Colorado should be wins, so between USC, UCLA, Washington and Arizona State, there is no reason why the Wildcats can’t finish out the season with what was a previously unexpected bowl berth.
— Zack Rosenblatt is the sports editor.
He can be reached at sports@wildcat arizona.edu or via Twitter