It’s been a rough season for the Arizona Wildcats, and a ton of things have gone wrong along the way.
The program has become the butt of jokes around the country, and the most concerning thing in my mind has been the empty stadium. But what does the rest of our team thing has been the most embarrassing aspect of the season?
Gabe Encinas: There are a lot of directions this can go in. I hate to be the guy that looks back and says Arizona was a missed field and a potential 2-point conversion away from beating BYU and Washington, going into a completely winnable game with a healthy quarterback, potentially looking at a 5-0 record.
But for me it’s probably just the lack of overall support for the football program. I understand it’s a basketball town here in Tucson, but if people want the football program to do well it needs support behind it. For Arizona football, it’s only a matter of time until people just give up and say “at least it’s basketball season, this is finally our year,” and so on. I know that’s a sweeping generalization of Arizona fans, and not everyone is like that, but I feel like that’s a huge majority of the base.
You can even go back to the 2014 Fiesta Bowl season. I remember Athletics was having trouble selling out the Washington game when Arizona was ranked No. 14 in the nation. Or you can even go back to the Fiesta Bowl, where Boise State fans practically surpassed the Arizona fanbase in their own state in one of the biggest bowl games in program history after one of the most successful seasons in history.
I understand that tickets can be expensive for people in Tucson to attend a game and you’re not going to want to pay real US currency to go. The late starts don’t help and when you don’t have alcohol to watch this season, it can be rough.
But overall, just to see how little support the program, and Rich Rodriguez, has right now after a rebuilding season was known, it’s pretty disappointing. However, going back to the beginning of the season, most expected that Arizona and Arizona State’s current seasons would be flipped. So 5-5 with a few Pac-12 wins is a lot better than 2-8, but even if this team was 5-5, I feel like there would still be the same amount of support.
Drake Horner: Probably the fact that the offense has been this bad. Everybody knew that the defense wasn’t going to be very good, but Arizona has won with bad defenses before. Brandon Dawkins looked like the answer at quarterback after the Washington game. In his six games in conference play, he has accounted for only seven total touchdowns with five turnovers. Arizona’s red zone offense is 118th in the nation. They are 114th in 3rd down conversion rate. In scoring offense they are 114th with 22.4 points per game. To put that into perspective, 2015 saw the Cats score 37 PPG, and 2014 was 34 PPG. Take out the Hawaii and Grambling games and this year it’s 18.2 PPG, which would be good for the fifth-worst scoring offense in the nation. Without a passing game, Arizona hasn’t been able to put up points this year.
Alec Sills-Trausch: I want to give Gabe a shout out for his answer. You all know I’m a basketball first type of person so football has always played second fiddle for me, but the program does get the short end of the stick, which I guess you could say is embarrassing.
I’m going to go with fan support (ie: ZonaZoo) *braces for backlash*. While my four years, 2010-2013, were generally successful (27-24...okay maybe just average) there were some really exciting times. In 2010, my freshman year, we won seven of our first eight games, including the most thrilling game I’ve ever been to versus Iowa. This made me feel a real connection with my peers and team, which kept me coming back year after year. This year, I doubt that connection has been made.
Each year it seemed the team was able to land a knockout punch to a ranked team which kept enthusiasm somewhat high and kept the ZonaZoo filled. This season, be it porous start times, or unusually warm weather, and a general inability to be competitive, fan support unsurprisingly has crumbled. I’m not sure what the solution is, but both the team and fans need to step their game up or it could have a lasting impact on ZonaZoo capacity going forward.
Brandon Combs: I'm siding with Gabe and Alec on this one. The lack of support for the team is disappointing. Oregon had an almost, if not, sold out crowd for the Stanford game and they are having just as bad a season, if not worse. Oregon was expected to be a competitor in the Pac-12 North and they have a really good basketball team who is in the top-five. But fans still show up to support their team.
The Cleveland Browns even pull in a lot of fans. They are 0-10 and are paid professionals. Cubs fans waited 108 years for their next World Series and had sell out after sell out in between championships.
I understand fans want their team to win and say they support the football team. But most have an odd way of showing it by not going to games to cheer on their team. And that is the one job fans have, go and support your team. It saddens me to see fans not support this team when they have a rough year. It's sports, it happens. As for the label “basketball town,” why not make it a multi-sport town with football and basketball?
I get that fans are upset (and understandably so) but that doesn't mean you quit supporting your team. I truly believe people WANT Arizona Football to succeed. Just be patient, hang tight, and keep supporting them. The payoff will be worth the wait.
David Potts: The blowouts. Since the Washington game, Arizona has lost every game by double figures. They’ve failed to cover the spread in every single game. And they lost to Washington State by 62. If Arizona fought valiantly and lost (like Colorado last year), I’d be fine with that. But this team hasn’t even had a *chance* since the first half of the Utah game. That’s the most embarrassing thing to me.
Ryan Kelapire: To me, the most embarrassing thing is this Arizona team isn’t good — or even average — at anything. Under Rich Rodriguez, the Wildcats have at least been able to move the ball consistently, but this year the offense has arguably been the team’s weakness. For a head coach that’s deemed as an “offensive genius” around the sport, the fact Arizona has one of the worst offenses in the conference is, well, embarrassing. Especially since this team doesn’t excel at anything else to make up for it.
David Stevenson: Poor quarterback play is the worst story of this season. The offense never seemed to run smoothly this year outside of six quarters that spanned the second half of the Grambling game and the Hawaii game.
Anu Solomon is in his fourth season and his play continues to trend downward each year since 2014. Now he can't even beat out an erratic Brandon Dawkins to earn the start against Colorado.
This year's lesson is that Arizona can never have too many talented quarterbacks on the roster. Thankfully next year’s class fills that gaping hole.