Richard Morrison vs. Oregon State

Arizona’s good breaks went bad against Oregon State.
Photo by Rick Scuteri-US PRESSWIRE

At first glance the Arizona Wildcatsthree-point loss to Oregon State is merely the balancing out of the early-season upset of Oklahoma State. You were one game ahead of schedule at the beginning of the month, now you’re back to even as the month comes to a close.

Stay the course, stay on pace and get yourself a bowl game.

The problem is the course has gotten tougher and the Cats are on pace to challenge injury records. The team is getting thinner and the schedule is getting stouter.

We The People knew there would be ups and downs with the coaching transition. We haven’t forgotten this team finished 4-8 last year. But the hope was to sneak in a bowl bid with eight home games and a senior quarterback before the real roster reconstruction got underway.

Last year’s Wildcats didn’t make the postseason because they lost to 3-9 Oregon State and 3-10 Colorado. This year’s Beaver team certainly won’t be 3-9 so losing to OSU isn’t damaging in and of itself. The concern is there don’t appear to be any bad teams replacing OSU in the Pac-12 this year, at least not on Arizona’s schedule.

Cal got handled easily at home by ASU, and Washington State has already lost to Colorado. It’s not hard to argue the two worst teams in the conference are the two teams the UA doesn’t play.

When we were all looking at the schedule before the season we certainly weren’t expecting to see six straight games against ranked teams. At the very least it has to be a record for number of times playing the No. 18 team in a single season.

A revitalized Pac-12 with half its membership in the polls is great for the conference but bad for an undermanned team trying to hold things together with athletic tape. Lots of athletic tape.

I was calling for Matt Scott to run the ball more but, sure enough, the first time he takes off against Oregon State (for a 21-yard gain on third down in the second half) he hurts his ankle. Even if he was 100% healthy after the Oregon game it’s even clearer that the injury risk is too great to run the option portion of the read-option offense this year.

All the more reason to be impressed with Scott’s 403 yards passing on Saturday (and all the more reason to be excited about seeing Rich Rodriguez’s system when his team is deep enough to attack teams with a mobile quarterback).

Then you had safety Jared Tevis’ ankle bending like a chalupa and center Kyle Quinn unable to finish the game due to a leg injury. And that’s on top of three other banged-up starters who missed the game entirely. From that perspective it’s impressive the UA held the lead with 70 seconds left.

There are no moral victories when you’re trying to scratch out six wins but these Wildcats have proven they don’t quit. Down 14-0 to Oklahoma State they storm back to take a 30-14 lead. Down 17-0 to the Beavers they rally for a 21-17 advantage. That no-deficit-is-too-big mentality (What Oregon game?) will come in handy if the team finds itself with a record of 3-3…or 3-6.

What’s frustrating about this loss is the Cats burned a large number of breaks and still didn’t get the win. How often does your backup center catch a pass on a fourth-quarter scoring drive? Then you throw in the two pass interference calls in the red zone and the fumble scrum that looked like the end of a Monday Night Football game and the Beavers could’ve been thinking, This just isn’t our night. Yet they ended up at In-N-Out anyway.

The copper topper was Richard Morrison taking a big break – OSU DB Jordan Poyer missing an interception and tipping the ball right to Morrison – and turning it into a bigger break for Oregon State by bobbling it right back to a diving Poyer. That was the moment when Wildcat Universe felt its own cheeseburgers slipping away.

Stay the course. Arizona didn’t quit against Oregon State and it’s not going to quit on the season no matter how many players go down or how many ranked teams line up. What do you do when you lose the MIGY (Most Important Game of the Year)?

You set a new MIGY and try to come back.

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Scott Terrell is not a fan of injuries. Heal up on Twitter and Facebook.