With Arizona’s offense and defense seemingly firing on all cylinders, and UCLA being seen as a doormat with their QB out for the season, this game seems like it could be a nightmare. Let’s take a trip to the twilight zone, and explore the worst-case scenario.
During the week leading up to the UCLA game, the Wildcats players hear the news that two UCLA players have been suspended, further diminishing the Bruins offense that is missing its starting QB. Smiles all around.
Coach Stoops plays it coy with the media regarding who will start at QB. "It all depends on how much mobility Nick has. If the knee is healed, he starts. If not, I’ve always said that we can win with Matt." No matter what coach Stoops tells the media, there is never any thought that Foles will play. Why bother? Matt Scott is performing at such a high level that he can more than handle the reigns against the lowly Bruins defense. And having another week for Foles to heal up his knee couldn’t be anything but good.
Heading into the match-up in Pasadena, seemingly everyone predicts a blowout victory for the Wildcats. ESPN.com’s Ted Miller is the lone voice of caution, calling the game ‘potentially hazardous’.
The game starts off well for the Wildcats. UCLA’s backup QB Richard Brehaut struggles, and the Bruins settle for a field goal. Matt Scott befuddles the Bruins defense, and the ‘Cats grab the early lead, 14-3. Things seem to be going well, and as the first quarter closes out, it seems as though a blowout is on the way. But on the first play of the second quarter, a momentum shift occurs. Matt Scott makes his first mistake. Trying to force a pass to Juron Criner, Scott’s pass is picked off by S Rahim Moore, who promptly returns it for a touchdown. As the Bruins fans celebrate, the Arizona training staff rushes onto the field. Criner is down. After working with him for a few minutes, the trainers help Criner up, and he limps to the sideline.
Electrified by the TD, the UCLA kickoff team goes on the attack. Just as Arizona WR ‘Bug’ Wright catches the kickoff, the ball is roughly separated from him with a jarring hit. The Bruins recover the ball and run it in for a TD. Coach Stoops has a mild conniption fit on the sideline. His face is now a brighter red than his shirt. UCLA leads, 14-17.
The remainder of the first half is a horror show for the Wildcats. The UCLA offense is emboldened by the two TD’s, and drives down the field. Brehaut takes advantage of Arizona’s zone defense, leading an unusual pass-heavy UCLA offensive drive. Coach Stoops is in hysterics on the sideline as the Bruins score, and go up, 14-24.
As Stoops makes his way to the locker room, the sideline reporter asks him what the Wildcats need to improve in the second half. Coach Stoops is blunt. "Everything."
The third quarter is surprisingly quiet. No points scored for either team. On the final play of the third quarter, Scott throws a high pass to FB Taimi Tutogi, who tips it up into the hands of a UCLA defender. Stoops has had enough. Foles warms up on the sideline. But it’s too late. The defense makes a valiant stand, but is handicapped by the Bruins picking apart the zone. Foles comes in, and is accurate, but seems stiff, and is unable to move in the pocket. This leads to sacks. Which lead to Foles, on the turf, clutching his knee.
Arizona loses the game, 14-30.
Remember, this was the worst possible scenario. I have every faith in Matt Scott to perform at an even higher level than he did against Washington. But I can’t shake the feeling that the Wildcats will be looking past UCLA, to Stanford. And you’d better believe that the Bruins, especially the defense, will be focused on this game and desperate for a win.
This is not WSU. This is the team that flat out beat Texas in Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. They didn’t get lucky. They out-hustled and out-played the Longhorns. They have proven that they are capable of major upsets.
Here’s hoping coach Stoops rides the guys hard this week, and doesn’t allow anyone to feel too confident in their game.