“We have to re-evaluate all aspects of our program.”
That was how Arizona’s coach, Mike Stoops, summed up the Wildcats’ 36-10 loss to Oklahoma State in the Valero Alamo Bowl last night.
What else is left to say after a season that began with a 7-1 start went terribly wrong and ended with five losses in a row, including the debacle in San Antonio.
The Cats (7-6) were coming off consecutive eight-win seasons and appeared headed for an even better mark this year. For God’s sake, all they had to do was win one of the final four in the regular season to make it three impressive seasons in a row and validate Stoops’ rebuilding progress.
And then, when they didn’t manage that, they had a bowl game to help get next year’s turnaround started. The idea was to use a win against the No. 14 Cowboys as the start to a new season, and go into 2011 with some momentum and their heads held high.
But four turnovers and a kid named Justin Blackmon shot down that idea.
Arizona coughed up three turnovers in the first half, and then another early in the second half, to stall its offensive efforts and put them in a hole – both mentally and on the scoreboard. The Cowboys enjoyed a 23-7 lead at halftime and never looked back after that.
Blackmon caught nine passes for 117 yards and two TDs, including a 71-yard play that found him all alone behind the Wildcat secondary for an easy saunter into the end zone. That score gave the Cowboys a 14-0 lead that they would never relinquish.
In the process, he set two collegiate records.
On his first catch of the game, Blackmon picked up eight yards, setting a NCAA single-season record for receiving yards for a sophomore, eclipsing the old record of 1,672 that was set by Larry Fitzgerald in 2003 at Pittsburgh. Fitzgerald is currently building a pro resume with the Arizona Cardinals.
Blackmon set the second record when he notched his 12th game with at least 100 receiving yards and at least one touchdown.
And the guy with the rifle arm on the other end of the passes had little trouble dealing with Arizona’s secondary. QB Brandon Weeden was 25-of-41 for 244 yards.
On the Arizona side, Nick Foles had to throw 50 times in the come-from-behind effort. The leading rusher was Nic Grigsby with 59 yards.
Foles connected 32 times for 280 yards, but just one touchdown when he hit Juron Criner from five yards out for their lone score that came in the first quarter.
This year’s Alamo Bowl results were eerily similar to those from last year’s Holiday Bowl, when Nebraska put a 33-0 beating on the Cats.
That makes it just one touchdown scored in two bowl games for an Arizona team that is supposed to be at the point of earning some national respect. And a coach who was beginning to instill some confidence in his ability to bring the team to that level.
That scenario is now in question.
Despite the fact that Arizona had 312 yards of offense and picked up 17 first downs against a ranked opponent that finished 11-2, the bottom line is a fifth straight loss and a season record just one game above .500.
And that’s not what the fans in Tucson were expecting this year.
(Photo: UofA Athletics/Luke Adams)