And with one sack early in the fourth quarter of last Saturday’s game against UCLA, all hope was lost.
Hope that Arizona could beat the Bruins. Hope that the Cats could continue their competent offensive display. Hope that the losing streak would end sometime this season.
When quarterback Jordan McCloud went down, whatever optimism had been brewing appeared to evaporate, leaving Arizona Stadium as well as the fan base as a whole.
Arizona was down just eight points at the time—the fourth time in five games they were within one possession in the fourth quarter—and had some momentum. Yet, even after the defense got a stop on the ensuing Bruins possession, there was very little confidence that the Wildcats would march down the field and find a way to tie the game up, or possibly even win it.
It was a real shame, both for McCloud and the program. The former was solidifying himself as the starting quarterback, while the latter seemed poised to be competitive the rest of the way.
But now? Who knows.
An optimist could look at Arizona’s 0-5 record and point to the fact that four of the five losses were to teams that are or have been ranked inside the top 25. They could also look at an offense that, with competent quarterback play, was able to move the ball on the ground and through the air. Combined with a defense that has been close to average and you have a team that should be able to compete against a less-than-daunting schedule.
However, a pessimist could argue the home loss to NAU trumps all when it comes to the schedule, while without McCloud the quarterback play may very well be an issue. It’s not difficult to find flaws in the defense and it’s not like Don Brown’s group has been shutting opponents out. Put all that together and it really doesn’t matter who Arizona plays, they will be deserved underdogs.
The adage is you are only as good as your record, and Arizona’s record is not good. The question is, as it has and will be all season, whether the Wildcats are improving.
If you look at the fact that the Cats have entered the fourth quarter within one score in four of their five games, the answer would be yes. Similarly the defense, while not good, has put up a fight during a season in which the offense cannot say the same.
The offense’s ability to move the ball shows that the scheme and play-calling can work, just right now it’s lacking fine tuning and, unfortunately, enough talent to really shine. The yards have piled up, but instead of putting up numbers the Wildcats have been plagued by just enough miscues at the most inopportune times to where they struggle to score points, having yet to surpass 19 in any single game.
So with seven games left in the season, many of them as winnable as a game can be for a team that hasn’t won a game in more than two years, the Wildcats are at a bit of a crossroads. While many see this as a season that will finish without a victory, recent performance would indicate that need not be the case.
Arizona has shown it has the talent to compete, and thus far has also shown the will to do so. Just, before they learn how to win they must figure out how to not lose.
They must cut down on the penalties. They must limit the turnovers. Running backs must run through the holes and quarterbacks need to get the ball to open receivers. It would not hurt if the defense came up with more sacks and turnovers, too.
Do that this weekend against a bad Colorado team, and Arizona might just end this ridiculous losing streak.
Can all that happen? Yes. Will it happen?
We can hope.