WILDCATS flags

The “Wild” part has been very true in 2014. Photo by Wildcat Universe

[Edit: The table at the bottom has been updated to include Arizona’s game-winning field goal on Nov. 15 against Washington.]

It has been a year of the unexpected for the Wildcats. Show up at Arizona Stadium and you never know what you’re going to see.

On Saturday We The People witnessed a rare last-second field goal attempt. The result of the close game, however, was all too familiar.

The 2014 college football season is only half over and it’s already been a wild ride. Things have gotten so strange in the Pac-12 that game-winning field goals (WSU vs. Cal, UCLA vs. Utah, UA vs. USC) have become harder than Hail Mary passes (ASU vs. USC, UA vs. Cal).

At the bottom of this page is the full list of Arizona games decided by three points or fewer in the past decade, and there have been some doozies (viewer discretion advised).

The not-so-highlights:

Arizona has a 7-16 record in these close games. No wonder we’re always anxious.

Mike Stoops went 4-14 in three-or-less games. Get that closer to .500 and he might still be coaching here.

Rich Rodriguez had started 3-1 at Arizona in nailbiters before this past week. Maintaining a winning record there is certainly progress for the program.

Eight of the 20 games – 40% of them – came against Oregon State or ASU, and those are the two schools responsible for the only two game-winning field goal attempts against the UA during this span (both were made). You already despise the Sun Devils; you may want to up your hostility toward the Beavers.

Because the kicks against ASU in 2009 and BYU in 2006 broke ties, this was Arizona’s first win-if-you-make-it-lose-if-you-don’t field goal attempt in 11 seasons.

The days of Max Zendejas beating Notre Dame and defeating (and tying) Arizona State seem so very long ago.

* * *

The Small Picturethis one game

The bottom line is Arizona had no business even having a chance to win the game at the end. The Wildcats were getting dominated at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. To even be in position to attempt that kick is remarkable.

That said… *sigh*

How many chances do you get to move to 6-0 and a top-six ranking? How often is Arizona in position to go two games up on UCLA and three games up on USC counting the tiebreaker?

What’s frustrating is kicker Casey Skowron has been excellent this year. He had made 11 of 13 field goal attempts (and all of his extra points) coming into the game. Don’t forget the Cats don’t beat Texas-San Antonio without Skowron going 4-for-4 including a 44-yarder.

The junior will be needed again. The way the UA plays so many close games (and misses red zone touchdowns) another late 3-point try could be coming soon.

How many converted onside kicks do you get in a season? In a coaching career? Teams will eventually figure out how to defend Arizona’s double-barreled kicker strategy so it’s disappointing to waste a conversion.

Updating Arizona’s 2014 fourth-quarter comeback scoreboard:

0-for-2 on game-tying 2-point conversions
2-for-3 on onside kicks
0-for-1 on game-winning field goals
1-for-1 on Hail Marys
1-for-2 on insane finishes

Add it up and it’s really hard to complain.

60 Minutes of Arizona is a real thing. These guys do not give up and do not doubt themselves at any point. That will be a very useful trait as the Pac-12 wars continue.

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The Medium Picturethis season

As we said in August, this game was the crossroads so it’s time to put away thoughts of the Pac-12 Championship Game.

Yes, the Wildcats are still tied for first in the South in the loss column but USC has the head-to-head win, the Trojans are already done with Stanford, ASU and Arizona, and they don’t play Oregon.

To avoid any more heartbreak don’t even look at the standings until Nov. 2. If Arizona beats both Washington State and UCLA on the road and if USC loses to Colorado, Utah or Wazzu then we can break down tiebreaker scenarios. Until then I’m reverting back to the mindset that a nine-win season would be a strong step forward.

That said, the Wildcats are 5-1 with a split of the Oregon and USC games. The team is ranked in the top 20 with a road win over a team that was No. 2 at the time and No. 9 now. I certainly would have gobbled that up before the season.

* * *

The Big Picturethis program

There were “team of destiny” whispers on the message boards but the state of Mississippi appears to have a monopoly on that magic this year.

There will not be any shortcuts to building a football champion in Tucson. At the end of the day the game is about blocking and tackling and USC clearly had the advantage in blockers (offensive line) and tacklers (defensive line). That gap will only be closed through recruiting and continued player development.

RichRod’s quote after the Oregon game now looks like both a promise and a warning. He said, “We’ve got a lot of work left. We’re not nearly as good as we will be in the next few years. That’s the most encouraging part.”

This is definitely a good time for some encouraging.

* * *

Arizona Games Decided by Three Points or Fewer, 2004 to Present

YearOpponentResultMarginGW Kick Att?Note
2014Wash.W1YSkowron GW FG
2014USCL2YSkowron missed FG
2014UTSAW3NUTSA out of time at own 34
2012NevadaW1YBonano PAT
2012USCW3NUSC failed Hail Mary
2012Ore. St.L3NScott INT near midfield
2010ASUL1YZendejas 2 PATs blocked
2010USCL3NUA onside kick failed
2010Ore. St.L2NHook-&-ladder tackled midfield
2010CalW1NCal INT near midfield
2009ASUW3YZendejas GW FG
2009OregonL3NGameDay / rush field too soon
2009Wash.L3NInaccurate Interception + Foles INT
2008Ore. St.L2YOSU GW FG
2008StanfordL1NHook-&-ladder tackled at own 14
2007ASUL3NUA onside kick failed
2007StanfordL1NStan. runs out final 2 minutes
2007New Mex.L2NNM runs out final 1:38
2006BYUW3YFolk GW FG
2005ASUL3YASU GW FG
2005Ore. St.W2NOSU INT
2005UtahL3NKovalcheck INT near midfield
2004Wash. St.L1NTake-a-Knee game
2004Wisc.L2YFolk missed FG

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