LOS ANGELES – On the brink of making the Pac-12 South race very interesting, the Wildcats turned in an uninspired effort, one that could not have possibly gone much worse for the 22nd ranked UA, as their season, and their hopes of achieving the program’s penultimate goal in 2012 died, ironically, in the very stadium they were hoping to return to in eight-and-a-half weeks.
Arizona's defense proved no match for the Bruins offense.
The offensive and defensive lines were pushed around, tackling was more of an idea than a routine, and multiple contributing players suffered serious injuries as the Cats took their licks and gave up 66, mustering just 10 meaningless points of their own, in a game that was over before the end of the first quarter.
The Rose Bowl will have to wait another year for the Wildcats, and although their chances of playing in the game were slim to begin with entering Saturday’s game with UCLA, they had at least given themselves a chance to fight for the opportunity to earn their first-ever berth in the “Grandaddy of Them All” by beating then-No. 10 USC a week ago in Tucson.
Instead, the Cats must now hope to find a way to attain bowl eligibility this fall over their three remaining games, in a season that has once again been turned on its head.
Quarterback Matt Scott, who was knocked out of the game with the Bruins after suffering a likely concussion, almost certainly won’t play against Colorado at homecoming this week, and backup B. J. Denker looked so bad in relief Saturday that Richard Morrison – once starting receiver and punt mishandling extraordinaire – entered the game to take a few snaps.
Naturally, he fumbled the ball, epitomizing the flat-out ambushing of an Arizona team that looked thoroughly nonchalant, unprepared, and ill-equipped to make any serious noise in the conference race in 2012.
The lone positive of the night – and this is reaching some – was tailback Ka’Deem Carey surpassing the 1,000 yard rushing mark, though he gained just 54 yards on the night while scoring Arizona’s sole touchdown. Carey is the first Arizona back to reach that milestone since Clarence Farmer had 1,229 in 2001.
As for the rest of the Wildcats, they must now hobble home, humbled and forlorn from the overwhelming defeat, and in all likelihood suit up without their leader, for a game they desperately must win in order to stake their claim to one of the conference’s “other” bowl games.
Entering the 2012 campaign, picking Arizona to be 5-4 through nine games, and on the cusp of clinching a postseason trip, would have been considered a probable prediction. And yet, the roller coaster ride hasn’t played out nearly as that script was written in the minds of those who follow the Wildcats, which is why defeats like these sting so bad.
Suddenly there’s a tinge of panic with this team, one that looked so close to being ahead of schedule at times, but now finds itself back on track, however winding and whirling that may be.
Arizona should still have its way with the 1-8 Buffaloes on Saturday, but in order to do so, Rich Rodriguez and his staff need to find a completely different way of preparing the team than they did for yesterday’s game. And perhaps Scott will be back in time for a trip to cold Salt Lake City for a meeting with Utah in two weeks.
The Cats were destroyed on Saturday night, and they now must rally from that demoralization to avoid having their season careen into a death spiral, into one that won’t be remembered as a success, because a couple more victories and a bowl appearance in year one under Rodriguez should certainly be viewed as a substantial achievement.
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