Just when you thought the Wildcats were bad enough to get you to not care about them anymore, they lose a game they should have won and now you’re upset.
No one ever said progress had to be enjoyable.
With Arizona being losers of seven games this season and 19 straight overall, a sense of apathy would be easy—and calming. Not only expecting the Wildcats to lose, but not caring if they did, would free up time and energy, leaving your emotional battery filled even after the clock reached zeros on the latest game featuring the Red & Blue.
But that wasn’t the case last Friday, after Arizona coughed up a 2-score lead in the fourth quarter, falling to Washington 21-16.
It was tough to watch, and judging by the quotes from coaches and players since it was even more frustrating for those who were a part of the game itself. For the first time since the USC game in Week 1 of the 2020 season it seemed as though Arizona might actually win. It had put itself in position to pull off the upset over a double-digit favorite, only to then find a way to the wrong side of the scoreboard.
In a vacuum, it was the type of game that could give you confidence that Arizona is heading in the right direction under its new coaching staff. Despite having less talent than the Huskies the Wildcats were the better team for most of the night. That counts for nothing in the standings, but it’s important to remember the Cats appeared to be oh-so-close to putting the game away in the fourth quarter before QB Will Plummer was intercepted on a screen pass.
The Wildcats had a chance to close the door on their opponent. They did no such thing.
Whether you blame the quarterback or the play call from Jedd Fisch, or perhaps give all the credit to Washington’s Tuli Letuligasenoa, the result was Arizona lost a chance to extend the lead while giving life to their opponent. Arizona was leading 16-7 at the time, and from that moment everything fell apart.
“After that there was just a deflation of a, almost a ‘here we go again’ mentality, rather than ‘okay, we’re still up nine and they have to drive 72 yards,’” Fisch said in the week after the game. “And then it took them one minute and nine seconds and they drove 72 yards and scored a touchdown to make it 16-14.”
Not long after it was 21-16 and after Arizona responded to losing the lead with a 3-and-out, did anyone honestly expect them to come back and win? For all the dismay over the 12-men on the field penalty with just a couple minutes left — and it was a bad one — did it really matter?
Probably not. Along with with talent, Arizona is also suffering from a lack of confidence. Despite what the “Believe” shirts they wore before the game might portray, this is clearly a team that might think it can win, but knows it can lose.
And it has lost — a lot. They are expected to lose more, with there being little in the way of a gimme left on the schedule this year and not into the next one, either.
Arizona has been within one score in the fourth quarter in five of its seven losses this season, and has competed in all but one of the defeats. They have done so while getting very little from the quarterback position and playing with minimal depth throughout the roster. The play-calling has been questionable at times, too, and penalties have been at times a crippling issue.
Individually a team can survive some of that, but when you combine Arizona’s miscues you get a team that just can’t seem to get over the hump. Unfortunately with each error and loss the proverbial monkey on the back grows in size, and at this point even King Kong would be intimidated by what he sees.
But alas, even the largest of monkeys can be defeated, and eventually Arizona will shake theirs. Until they do, the questions and doubt will remain, on the field, roaming the sideline, in the stands and wherever else folks are watching from.
As long as everyone involved continues to care and feel the pain of defeat, though, better days will eventually come.