This wasn't just a near-win for the Arizona Wildcats. This was first a blow-out, then a possible comeback, but eventually a loss against an Oregon State team that was 0-4 on the season. And when nearly handed the chance to steal a terribly-played game in Corvallis, Ore., the Wildcats (1-5, 0-4 Pac-12) simply refuted to take advantage of friendly giveaways by the Beavers in a 37-27 loss.
There were turnovers for Arizona — two interceptions by quarterback Nick Foles, a fumble by running back Daniel Jenkins and a muffed kick return by the special teams on a kickoff. There was also a blocked punt returned for a touchdown against the Wildcats.
But most of the Wildcats problems started with the offensive and defensive lines. Punter Kyle Dugandzic's blocked punt was due to poor blocking up front, as was what appeared to be a fake punt late in the game, when Dugandzic rolled out after tucking the ball, saw an unblocked Beaver rusher, and squibbed the ball for 30-yards to at least get the ball away from the goal-line.
One of Foles' passes was tipped during the throw because of poor line blocking. And to top it off, the run game accounted for a lowsy 53 yards on 19 carries.
On defense, the Wildcats again failed to get a single hand on the quarterback other than Sean Mannions two rushing attempts. Mannion threw for 267 yards on 32-of-41 passing attempts. Other than getting picked by UA cornerback Shaquille Richardson, the redshirt freshman had all the calm in the world thanks to his extended time in the pocket.
Many times, you didn't know Saturday whether Mike Stoops even knew whether he wanted to kick the field goal or go for it on fourth down. In the first quarter, kicker Alex Zendejas attempted a 38-yard field goal, missing it wide left. After failing on an extra point attempt in the second quarter, he was finally pulled.
The Wildcats found themselves down 30-6 halfway through the third quarter. 21 unanswered points gave them a chance — and hey, we discovered kickoff man John Bonano can hit a PAT — but of course when they had a 4th-and-need-to-score situation inside the 5-yard line, receiver Dan Buckner dropped a catchable ball to seal Arizona's fate.
Stoops fate might be sealed as well. In a game that might have been the most pathetically-executed and confidence-lacking performance I've ever seen, Stoops oddly calm behavior following the game looked as if he knows he could be on his way out.
Yeah, I thought before this season that Arizona would be mediocre, and I thought that even a 5-7 record would allow Stoops to keep his gig. At some point, however, poor execution, failure to get the best of of his players (even if they aren't that talented) and poor decision-making (on the special teams side, especially) all comes down to coaching.
It didn't help that he replaced two outstanding coordinators with coaches who previously were simply linebacker coaches or run-game coordinators. It's a number of issues, but the Wildcats do indeed have more talent than their production has showed.