It all evaporated. The Mike Stoops curses, bad luck, mistakes. All into thin air. Arizona, with a crew of Mike Stoops' recruits, made a team one year off a near championship run look average. The Arizona Wildcats looked complete,. They appeared as if, despite a new quarterback and such, a Big 12 defense and trendy spread offense was just so-so.
The Wildcats defeated the No. 18 Oklahoma State Cowboys 59-38 in Tucson, and all of a sudden we forgot the painful past year. Or more.
Toledo overtime win? Yeah, that was weak. But a home victory against the Cowboys that had previously smashed the Wildcats in a bowl game and then in an early-season nonconference feud? No contest. This Saturday night was different.
Arizona for sure wasn't overwhelming. The Wildcats used 14 penalties for 157 yards on the Cowboys' part to gain the advantage, but aside from that, they kept it even. UA picked three passes and forced one fumble to win the turnover margin and win -- the offense expected and the skill hoped for was all prevalent.
Rich Rodriguez's squad put up 59 points. Fifty-nine against those Cowboys who made the Wildcats look like crap the last few years. UA needed to take any opportunity available and Saturday night there were plenty.
Oklahoma State scored less than two minutes into the game. The Cowboys scored in a drive five minutes into the game. It was the same. Nothing had changed since last season or the one before that.
Then it was the Wildcats' turn. They scored quickly themselves, scoring on a 15-yard pass from Matt Scott to Richard Morrison with 7:50 remaining in the first quarter.
14-7 and it was a game. The Wildcats, after getting behind, made it a game the Cowboys would have to force their hand. Oklahoma State didn't. John Bonano rebounded from an ugly outing on his second weekend of this football season to score on a field goal on the next possession, and a 14-10 deficit was all the more promising for Arizona after one quarter. Another field goal less than a minute into the second quarter made it a one-point game, and another the next possession made it an Arizona lead.
So much for missed opportunities.
The Wildcats scored 30 points after the first 14 by OSU, and the Wildcats would nearly double that number thereafter. Matt Scott hit for 320 yards on 28-for-40 passing. Ka'Deem Carey rushed 26 yards for 125 yards and three towndowns. Austin Hill caught just five passes for 124 yards.
But it was the defense. The defense did give up 636 yards. But it was nothing of the embarrassing variety. It was the many, many yards Toledo gave up last week to no detriment to their chance of winning the game. 38 points to show for it wasn't enough.
UA put up 500 yards themselves, and they made few if any mistakes.
It was all opportunity.
UA didn't wither down the stretch. The Wildcats gave up 14 and 17 points in the first and third quarters to zero and seven in the second and fourth quarters.
Sure, OSU isn't what it was last season. But Arizona showed that it's more than what we expected. Maybe Mike Stoops didn't leave Tucson with little to nothing. It was the high-level recruit in Jonathan McKnight who made a pick-six play and the walk-on in Jared Tevis who made a game-deciding pick that defined the game.
The Wildcats had more than we thought. Rich Rodriguez and Jeff Casteel coached it up. Maybe this season won't be that ugly.