It was the best of times, and it certainly bordered on the worst of times as well for Arizona Wildcats fans on Saturday night.
The already long-suffering fanbase was treated to a defensive slugfest, the likes of which have been few and far between in the Rich Rodriguez era.
The problem, as is typical with the Wildcats of late, was that they failed to live up to their newfound defensive mettle on the offensive side of the ball.
Three turnovers, including a mind-numbing interception on the team’s penultimate drive, put a stake in the team’s collective heart as the crowd poured out of the cement-encrusted gates at Arizona Stadium.
The cumulative result was another loss, this time in gut-wrenching fashion, as Arizona fell to 1-1 on the fledgling season.
The scoreboard showed a fairly even night at the not-so-friendly confines — 19-16 in favor of the visiting Cougars.
The issue is that the game really wasn’t as close as the ginormous board indicated, with Arizona frequently playing catch-up, only to have its legs chopped out from under them by frequent mistakes.
There were many takeaways from Saturday’s slugfest, but here are three that stick out.
Arizona’s quarterback conundrum is a lose-lose situation for everyone
Let’s face it, the back-and-forth game of QB musical chairs on Saturday was a head scratcher for sure.
Fans and journalists alike weren’t given much in the way of clarity in Rich Rodriguez’s post-game comments either, as the longtime ballcoach defended his decision by saying that Dawkins was battling an injury.
That argument, based on the fact that Dawkins was inserted back into the game soon thereafter, seemed to hold as much water as one of the overpriced cups available at any number of the fine vendors on the Arizona Stadium concourse.
The bottom-line is that neither Dawkins nor Khalil Tate showed consistent enough poise in the pocket to garner much in the way of confidence going forward.
Keep an eye on who Rodriguez picks to face a rather woebegone UTEP team next week, as no one has a clue right now who that will be.
Maybe Arizona’s defense isn’t as bad as we all thought
For all the offensive miscues witnessed on Saturday, there seemed to be a legit silver lining in the performance turned in by Arizona’s defense. Defensive coordinator Marcel Yates’ crew gummed up the Cougars’ offense, limiting them to 383 offensive yards, while forcing a fumble and two interceptions.
It may be a small sample size, but maybe the Wildcats defense won’t be quite the eyesore they were a year ago, though that remains to be seen.
Arizona’s “less-than-special” special teams
After a strong performance in Week One, it was a rough week for the special teams unit vs. Houston.
UA long snapper Nick Reinhardt missed Saturday’s game with an injury, and his presence was definitely missed by Rodriguez and company, with a poor snap derailing a 30-yard field goal attempt in the second quarter that ultimately proved the deciding margin of the game.
There also was the coverage breakdowns on kickoffs that allowed Houston’s John Leday to return a kick some 81 yards after Arizona had just tied the game, which again points to a lack of discipline leading to the team’s ultimate undoing.
The Wildcats make the 317-mile jaunt eastward on I-10 to play former WAC rival UTEP (0-2) at 7:15 p.m. MST on ESPN.
You can find our full recap from Arizona’s loss to Houston here.
Follow Christopher Boan on Twitter at @cgboan