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What we learned from Arizona’s loss to NAU, the lowest point in program history

Northern Arizona v Arizona Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Arizona Wildcats lost to the NAU for the first time since 1932 on Saturday, getting stunned 21-19 in Tucson.

Our recap can be found here, Jedd Fisch’s postgame interview can be read/watched here, and below are some additional takeaways.

This is the lowest point in program history

As bad as things had gotten at Arizona, no one—and I mean no one—thought they would actually lose to NAU. Not many people on this earth have ever seen it happen. Not me. Not even my grandparents who are 87 years young.

And let’s not pretend this was a good NAU team. The Lumberjacks lost to Sam Houston State by 26 points and South Dakota by 27. And heck, even if this was a good NAU team, Arizona should still beat them 10 times out of 10. No matter who the coach is. No matter who the players are.

It’s why Arizona had to pay NAU $500,000 just to play this game—and how the Wildcats were 23-point favorites, even though they have not won a game since 2019.

Their losing streak now sits at 15 games—the longest in major college football—and there is no end in sight. That was supposed to be the NAU game, but Arizona football is showing us, in the worst ways possible, that anything can happen.

Jedd Fisch has to give Arizona fans new reasons to believe in him

Fisch did so many good things in the offseason. He welcomed former players back. He engaged with fans. He opened practices. He restored the Desert Swarm uniforms (though I disagree with Arizona’s decision to wear the white ones at home).

All of that is meaningless now. Fisch now has to give Arizona fans new reasons to believe in him and his vision for the program. And they all start—and end—with a better performance on the field.

Saying things like “we’re going to go through some bumps and bruises early on” falls on deaf ears when you’re talking about a loss to freaking NAU. That is not a bump or a bruise. That is a bullet wound.

Only 33,481 fans showed up to Saturday’s game, Arizona’s worst attendance figure since it joined the Pac-10 in 1978. I don’t blame them if they decide not to come back. The last two coaches promised them that they would turn things around but somehow they managed to bring the program to new lows. I never thought it would get worse than Kevin Sumlin losing 70-7 to ASU, but here we are.

It’s Jordan McCloud time

There’s a reason Will Plummer didn’t win the starting job out of fall camp. He was too risky with the ball, and we saw that result in two interceptions against NAU. One of them was returned for a touchdown, which proved to be extremely costly considering the UA defense played more than well enough to win. (It held NAU to 233 yards and had seven tackles for loss.)

You might be able to live with the turnovers if Plummer was moving the ball otherwise. But the offense never found a rhythm with him at the helm. Take out his 49-yard touchdown pass to Boobie Curry—though obviously give him credit for making a nice throw—and Plummer only completed 18 of 33 passes for 142 yards, a paltry 4.3 yards per attempt.

Arizona doesn’t run the ball well—you know it’s a sad state of affairs when the offensive line can’t control the line of scrimmage against an FCS team—so it’s imperative to have a passing game that can at least take what the defense gives it. Neither Gunner Cruz nor Plummer showed they can do that, so why not give McCloud the nod? Of the three QBs, he does have the most game experience. Maybe he can be the steady hand the offense needs.

McCloud entered in the fourth quarter and went 6 for 7 for 66 yards, throwing a touchdown pass on UA’s final drive. He looked pretty poised for a guy who was making his Wildcat debut.

Obviously the fact that McCloud couldn’t beat out Cruz or Plummer for the starting job is a good reason to be skeptical that he will be a difference-maker. But what is there to lose at this point?