Mike Stoops can’t catch a break.
His Arizona Wildcats were dealt a front-loaded schedule this season that included three Top 10-ranked teams in the first four games. The result is a 1-3 start to the 2011 season.
Then today the Cats hopped on over to L.A. to play the University of Southern California. Not a ranked team, but they were just two weeks ago. So it offered a chance to salvage some pride and build a little confidence going into the remainder of the season.
Stoops’ quarterback, senior Nick Foles, throws for 425 yards and four touchdowns this afternoon against the Trojans and the offense churns out 554 total yards.
And they lose, 48-41.
On the other side of the field, USC’s Matt Barkley sets a school record by completing 32 of 39 pass attempts for 468 yards. And the offense outpaces Arizona by 28 total yards as they rack up 582.
The eighth-year head coach even turned to his true freshman running back, Ka’Deem Carey, looking for some help with a rushing game that has been anemic all season. The local kid from nearby Canyon del Oro High School, who has been used sparingly before this, responded by running for two touchdowns and catching a pass for another score.
But it wasn’t enough. Arizona couldn’t conquer the same Pac-12 team that Arizona State was able to beat by three scores last week.
And that fact does little to bolster the hopes of the faithful that their Cats will at least pull out a win in the Duel in the Desert rivalry game with ASU at season’s end. That always goes a long way to salvaging a mediocre season.
Turnovers at key points were a big factor in the outcome of the USC game. Foles completed 41 passes, but he threw two interceptions in the first half that snuffed scoring drives and enabled the Trojans to take a 27-12 lead into the locker room.
The loss is one more in a frustrating streak for the Cats. They haven’t beaten an FBS opponent in nearly a year. They finished last season with five straight losses, including the Alamo bowl loss to Oklahoma State, and their only win this season was in the opener against Northern Arizona University, a FCS team.
After blowing out NAU, 44-10, the Cats have given up an average of 44 points a game through this afternoon. Defense has not exactly been a bright spot this season.
Last year, Arizona started out 7-1 before their season imploded.
This year, maybe it will work the other way around and the winning will start with next week’s game against Oregon State, a team still looking for its first win. Unfortunately, the game is in Corvallis and the Cats haven’t had much luck on the road this season.
But, then, they haven’t had much luck at home, either.
(Photo: Arizona Athletics)