ZonaZoo - homecoming - 2013

A big Homecoming crowd wasn’t enough against UCLA.
Photo by Wildcat Universe

It was a game that couldn’t decide if it wanted to be a blowout by the visitors or a dramatic comeback by the home team. The UCLA Bruins took the lead on their very first snap and held onto it to the very end for a 31-26 victory over the Arizona Wildcats.

Now, for the third time this season, the UA’s goal is to secure a winning season and lock up a solid bowl bid. But if the Cats are going to get it done it would be a good idea to make it happen this week.

Arizona’s 2013 Homecoming game was an odd one in that UCLA could never put the Wildcats away but the Cats couldn’t ever come all the way back. The Bruins had five different possessions with a chance to extend the lead to three scores but starting with the failed fake punt (what on earth was that, Jim Mora?) the UA held on each time.

Then, after the Cats lost their early 3-0 advantage they had five different drives of their own with a chance to retake the lead but never once got back in front.

Alas, the days of championship scenarios only lasted a week.

I’m not going to apologize for hyping the game. Even in this loss the Wildcats showed they belonged in the conversation. Arizona took both USC and UCLA to the wire but didn’t quite have enough to get there. Rich Rodriguez’s rebuilding project continues.

It’s good to get expectations up again. RichRod has shown nothing in his 22 games at Arizona that suggests he isn’t going to have the Wildcats playing in a lot of these big late-season games. Yes, the losses sting more when there’s more to lose but We The People may as well get used to it.

You’ve got to get in the big games before you can win the big games.

Keep cheering for progress and rooting for recruiting. The hope is the next time a freshman dominates like the phenomenal Myles Jack, he’s wearing Red and Blue.

So the new 2013 goal is reverted to the old 2013 goal. Both games against the L.A. schools were a chance for the Cats to aim for higher things but back to the original Line Of Agonizing Disappointment we go.

The tricky part is the Wildcats need to rebound right now. The next step is to lock up a seventh win and that has to happen this upcoming Saturday at home against Washington State.

You only have to go back three seasons to find the UA in an eerily similar situation. The 2010 Cats rode a three-game winning streak (and 7-1 overall record) into an early-November showdown with a ranked team (Andrew Luck and Stanford). Next up after that loss was a home game against an unranked team (USC). The Wildcats dropped that, then lost to Oregon (uh oh) and finished the regular season by falling to ASU (yikes).

A promising season fell apart because the team wasn’t able to bounce back from the disappointment of the big game to take care of business in the following “little” game.

Regardless of the point spread it would be unwise to overlook Mike Leach and Wazzu. The 289 passing yards and 28 points that Cal put up two weeks ago are cause for concern. Leach is the guy who taught Sonny Dykes, and Washington State is significantly better than the Golden Bears.

To make it worse, the Cats’ trend of giving up long passes continued with the 66-yarder on UCLA’s first play from scrimmage. Arizona has now allowed a passing play of at least 49 yards in five of its six Pac-12 games, with four of those plays going over 60 yards.

When the UA kicks off at high noon on Saturday neither the ESPN cameras nor the Homecoming crowd will be there but it’s a very meaningful game for the 2013 Wildcats. It could define the season.

With the loss to UCLA, sadly, Year 2 for RichRod will not be a championship season. Now the Cats need a victory to ensure a winning season.

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