The University of Arizona football team is running out of excuses for its poor start this season. And running out of time to turn things around.
This afternoon’s 37-27 loss to Oregon State in Corvallis cancels out the reasoning that says it was a difficult early schedule that had the Wildcats playing three top-10 teams in Stanford, Oregon, and Oklahoma State. Their other loss was to USC.
OK, we cut the Cats some slack. But what do we do now?
Oregon State was winless entering today’s game. Heck, they hadn’t won a game in almost 11 months. It’s been eight years since they rolled into October with a winning record. And they were outscored 163-94 in their first four games this year.
So, how did they beat Arizona? They had some help… from Arizona.
First, the Wildcats dug themselves a nice hole, as they let the Beavers step out to a 14-0 lead.
Then, Ka’Deem Carey, the freshman from Canyon del Oro High School, got the ball rolling. He picked up eight yards on a third-and-one to keep a drive alive and put the Cats across the 50. Then he moved them to the OSU 28 by pulling in a Nick Foles pass to set the stage for a Dan Buckner scoring reception at the 6:24 mark of the first quarter.
But Alex Zendejas missed the point-after and Arizona had to settle for six points.
The Beavers weren’t done, however. They picked up a field goal with a couple of minutes left in the first half, thanks to a fake punt that kept their scoring drive alive. Make it 17-6.
Foles was intercepted on the next Arizona drive and OSU capitalized on it by scoring on a four-yard pass with just 16 seconds left in the first half. Make it 24-6.
But, wait, there’s more. The Beavers recovered the ball on the kick-off and had just enough time on the clock to kick a field goal.
That put Arizona down 27-6 at the half. Oregon State went 3-for-3 on scoring opportunities in the red zone and ran up 224 yards of offense in the first half alone.
The Wildcat mistakes seemed to be the gift that keeps on giving, as they gave OSU another boost to open the second half, fumbling on their first drive and giving the Beavers a chance to add a field goal to the score.
Eventually, the Cats settled down and made a comeback run, as Keola Antolin scored on a 10-yard run in the third quarter as Arizona went 83 yards in eight plays. That was followed closely by another touchdown, this time by the defense as Shaquille Richardson intercepted a Sean Mannion pass and went to the house to make it a 10-point game at 30-20. Carey finished the Cats’ scoring early in the fourth quarter by squeezing it in from the one.
But the Beavers scored on a fourth-and-goal from the two-yard line with 5:22 left to play to pad their lead and make it 37-27.
One last UA scoring attempt and one final miscue came with 2:56 left in the game when the Cats marched down the field but couldn’t score on a third-and-goal from the one-yard line. A pass on fourth down failed when Buckner dropped the ball in the end zone.
Now, a couple of new questions arise.
First, if Arizona can’t beat Oregon State, who can they beat the rest of the way?
And, finally, how are the Cats going to keep Arizona State from winning a second straight Territorial Cup victory at the end of the season? ASU, which beat Oregon State by 15 points, is 5-1 and nationally-ranked.
A lot of questions. They’re never much fun for the head coach. But they’re inevitable when you get off to a 1-5 start to the season.
(Photo: Arizona Athletics)