Welcome to Arizona Football.
If you’re new in town and you just started taking an interest in how the local team is doing, you are now a member of the club. If you’re reading this as a fan of another team, you just got a glimpse into our dark reality.
This is life as an Arizona Wildcat football fan.
Fumbling while running out the clock. A hurricane. An unsportsmanlike conduct call on a wide receiver while running a two-minute drill. Done, done, and done.
A 50-yard fourth-quarter touchdown run in a 7-6 game. A bowl game where you only give up 75 total yards. And that’s just off the top of my scarred head.
That’s why we were terrified at the end of this most recent Washington game. This is why we weren’t overly shocked when the game slipped away. The only thing out of the ordinary was the degree of difficulty.
That is how you go 73 years without an outright conference championship.
You know the Versus guys have their updated graphic all queued up for this Saturday:
ARIZ IS NOW 2-16 IN LAST 18 GAMES DECIDED BY 3 PTS OR LESS.
YOU ARE ABOUT TO CRY RIGHT NOW.
That is now six consecutive losses in three-points-or-less games in the past two-plus years. UA gridiron heartbreak dates back way before Mike Stoops but his teams are turning it into an art form.
Arizona absolutely killed the Huskies between the 20s. We own the Green Zone. It’s that other-colored zone that gives us trouble.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise, however, when you look at the personnel losses. Take out Grigsby, Antolin and GRONK! and you’re missing 33 touchdowns from last year, and not in the same way Mike Thomas’ 27 career TDs are missing. These are three guys who were supposed to score just as many points this year. Take the two running backs and add Juron Criner’s injury and you were missing the guys responsible for seven of this year’s 12 offensive touchdowns. You can call it an excuse but if the question is, “Why were we so bad in the Red Zone?” there’s your answer.
Nic Grigsby would have scored on that stretch play run from the UW 2. He either outruns the defense to the pylon or makes one hard cut like he did against ASU last year. Keola Antolin would’ve scored on the 4th-and-inches play. He reads the cracks in the line and gets low enough to squeeze through.
This isn’t to say Greg Nwoko is going a bad job. His punishing touchdown run in the first quarter was a thing of beauty. It’s just unrealistic to expect a freshman to replace all the experience (and TDs) of the two guys ahead of him on the depth chart.
Even with the Red Zone struggles it’s really hard to blame the offense for this one. Thirty-three points should be enough. It’s not like we only scored 16 and asked the defense to hold back the dam. You can’t get mad at the offense for failing in the Red Zone when you’re giving up touchdowns before the other team even gets in the Red Zone.
Of course, the defense defenders will point to the injuries on that side of the ball, as well as the kickoff team giving up field position all night. I have no idea what the solution is there because not even the underhanded free throws are working.
You certainly can’t pin this loss on Nick Foles. On top of the gaudy passing stats, the kicked INT was actually a really nice on-the-fly adjustment by both Foles and Dean. The Huskies jumped the route so Dela ran forward past the defender and was open. Nick read it as well and it would have been a small gain at worst and a potential big gain with a quick move outside. Foles just didn’t get enough on the throw and the rest is UA football history.
No, there is zero reason to be concerned about the quarterback position. In fact, we were three minutes away from full-on Foles Mania hitting campus. The second-most completions in a game in school history. The ninth-most yards in a game. Throwing through defenders like they were holograms. A 2-0 road record. You wouldn’t have been able to keep the Nick Follicles wigs on the shelves.
Now we regroup and lick our reopened wounds. The season is still young. Suffering may be a part of the Arizona Football experience but quitting isn’t.
So come on out to Arizona Stadium this weekend. Tune in from across the country. Whatever you do, don’t take your eyes off the guys in the blue helmets.
You might just witness something you’ve never seen before.