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Arizona resembles old self, gets blown out by San Diego State in home opener

Losing streak stands at 14

arizona-wildcats-gunner-cruz-jordan-mccloud-jedd-fisch-byu-ucla-colorado-pac12-football-2021 Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

So much for all that promise from the first game.

After fighting hard yet still losing to BYU in its opener, the Arizona Wildcats hoped to make a big splash in their home opener in front of a packed house. Instead they resembled the teams of the previous few seasons, as did the crowd.

Arizona fell behind 21-0 less than eight minutes in, losing 38-14 to San Diego State on Saturday night to extend their nation-worst skid to 14 games. A crowd of 39,097—far below the sellout coach Jedd Fisch had hoped for—saw the Wildcats miss tackles and give up big plays on defense while their offense could barely move the ball.

In other words, the 2019 and 2020 UA teams.

The UA (0-2) managed only 228 yards of offense going 3-and-out on nine of 15 possessions including seven in a row at one point, failing to convert a third down until the fourth quarter. San Diego State (2-0) had 190 yards in the first quarter alone and gained 301 of its 455 yards on 12 chunk plays.

Gunner Cruz, who threw for 336 yards in his first career start against BYU, had just 70 yards on 10-of-19 passing with an interception and was sacked three more times before Will Plummer took over midway through the third quarter. Plummer was 8 of 17 for 109 yards and threw his first career TD pass midway through the fourth quarter.

With fans still trickling into the stadium due to delays at the gates, SDSU took a 7-0 lead on a 55-yard run by Greg Bell just 98 seconds into the game. Bell ran for 125 yards, part of 271 on the ground for the Aztecs.

Following a quick 3-and-out by Arizona, the SDSU drove 96 yards to take a 14-0 lead on a 3-yard TD run by quarterback Jordan Brookshire, who bowled over UA safety Jaxen Turner at the goal line. That score was set up by a 73-yard catch on 3rd and 2 by tight end Daniel Bellinger, who caught the ball near the line of scrimmage and no one touched him until he was into the red zone.

SDSU’s third score came on special teams. Following another UA 3-and-out, punter Kyle Ostendorp had his punt blocked and returned 27 yards for a TD by Tyrell Shavers.

It was 21-0 with 7:07 left in the first quarter. Arizona only trailed 14-0 at that point in its previous home game, the 70-7 beatdown from ASU.

The Wildcats finally got going on offense when it decided to get the ball to its best playmaker, Stanley Berryhill III. His first touch came on a pitch after lining up in the backfield, resulting in a 23-yard gain, and two plays later he caught a pass behind the line of scrimmage from Cruz and outraced the SDSU defense for a 43-yard TD to make it 21-7 with 5:50 left in the first.

Berryhill’s score ended a 115-7 run by UA opponents at Arizona Stadium since the Wildcats took a 13-0 lead on Colorado in early December last year.

Arizona got two sacks on the next possession, forcing a punt, but couldn’t build off the momentum, and on SDSU’s next possession Bellinger scored on a 25-yard pass that was aided by multiple missed tackles to give the Aztecs a 28-7 edge early in the second quarter.

A 40-yard TD catch by Ethan Dedeaux made it 35-7 with 1:52 left before halftime. The Aztecs added a field goal in the third quarter, and Arizona got its second TD on a 7-yard pass from Plummer to Tayvian Cunningham with 8:24 left.

Arizona will get another shot to snap its losing streak next Saturday when it hosts NAU at 7:30 p.m. MT in its final nonconference game before Pac-12 play.