To say that the University of Arizona football program can’t catch a break would be an understatement.
This years’ team, under the direction of a new coach without head-coaching experience, has not won a game in five tries. That futility has extended a losing streak that began in 2019 to 17 games now.
The height of frustration (and embarrassment) came three weeks ago, when Northern Arizona University, an FCS team that was winless at the time, rolled into Tucson and beat the Wildcats on their own field in front of a crowd of 33.481 stunned fans. That 21-19 upset marked the first time since 1932 that the Lumberjacks had prevailed over their Pac-12 neighbor.
So far, the Jacks have gone through three quarterbacks trying to get something going. It appeared they had found their go-to guy in Jordan McCloud, a transfer from South Florida. Last week he made his second straight start under center, against UCLA.
And that was also to be his last start of the season. A leg injury in the fourth quarter took the fourth-year sophomore out of the game and the Bruins went on to hand the Jacks another demoralizing loss, 34-16.
Then, this week came the announcement that Wildcat Nation had been fearing: McCloud is out for the remainder of the season.
This may be the final straw for an underrated team trying desperately to reach some level of normalcy — and credibility.
Head coach Jedd Fisch now turns to his other two quarterbacks, both of whom have taken a shot at being the designated signal caller, but neither earned the permanent job. Now, one of them has to step up his game and take the reins of the offense.
So the first-year head coach must now turn to either Gunner Cruz or Will Plummer to become the team’s savior. The two shared playing time when the season started, although Cruz was listed as the official starter for the first game. McCloud was part of a three-way battle for the starting job, but missed spring camp while completing his undergraduate degree at USF and had to play catch-up to the other two. McCloud was the experienced one, having 17 career starts for the Bulls.
Plummer’s limited experience comes from last year when he saw playing time in a 10-27 loss at UCLA, and then had a single start against Colorado, a 13-24 loss. Cruz is a redshirt freshman that transferred in from Washington State last season where he made one appearance in a Cougars game.
Both are local products. Plummer was a prolific passer at Gilbert High School where he finished his prep career with 6,800 yards passing and 58 touchdowns, while Cruz threw for 3,598 yards and 30 TDs during his senior year at Casteel High School in Queen Creek before starting his college career at WSU.
But it’s hard to tell whether that success is going to carry over to the college game.
If it doesn’t, the Wildcats are in for a long, frustrating ride the rest of the way.
(Photo: Arizona Athletics)