Before last night’s game, many believed this would be a game of Arizona’s high strung offense vs. Oregon State’s put-up-a-brick-wall defense. Many thought the team that won might be the first one to could grind out 20 points.
Not so much.
Oregon State had 613 yards of total offense (433 yards in the air, 180 on the ground). Arizona had 545 yards of total offense and was the first team to go for over 100 yards on the ground against Oregon State’s defense (142 total yards, with Ka’Deem Carey going 115 yards on 17 carries). Both teams battled back and forth all night, but Oregon State’s maturity on offense was too much for Arizona’s inexperienced and battered defense, and the Beavers pulled out the three point victory, bringing Arizona even closer to the reality they have begun to face after losing to Oregon last week.
Arizona’s paper-thin depth on defense showed. Jared Tevis, Arizona’s second best defender and tackler, left the game in the first quarter with an ankle injury, and his absence was apparent thereafter. OSU’s quarterback Sean Mannion carved out Arizona’s secondary, throwing bombs to Markus Wheaton (166 yards on 10 catches) and Brandin Cooks (149 yards on 9 catches) all night long, as if he were dealing with a couple of high school cornerbacks. It didn’t help that on many plays Mannion had enough time to call his mom and ask her who was open–even when the Wildcats brought pressure. Arizona’s front six didn’t do much to help, allowing running back Storm Woods a career day of 161 yards on 29 carries.
When Arizona’s Austin Hill brought in a Touchdown with 5:34 left in the 4th quarter to take the lead 35-31, the Wildcat crowd was only slightly enthusiastic, knowing that giving the Beavers over five minutes to score against Arizona’s defense was an eternity. The crowd was proven correct: Oregon State went 75 yards for a touchdown on ten plays and, worst of all, ate up 4:25 in doing so. Though the Cats had the final opportunity to win or tie the game, Matt Scott threw an interception on his own 44 yards line with less than a minute left, trying to force a pass that wasn’t there.
Arizona’s defense is not the only one to blame in the loss. Much similar to the game against Oregon, Arizona’s offense came out sluggish at the beginning of the game, failing to convert on several drives and giving Oregon State a 17-0 spot before scoring their first touchdown late in the second quarter (If Arizona wants to be successful this year, they will have to come swinging from the very beginning). The Wildcats’ special teams continues to be a disaster, and John Bonano missed yet another field goal from 41 yards out–a missed three points that ended up being the difference in the game. Arizona’s crowd was pathetic, being the lowest attendance for a conference game in eight years.
Yet, not all was bad for Arizona. After getting demolished 49-0 against Oregon last week and seeing Oregon State take an early 17-0 lead, the Wildcats could have easily crumbled up and died before the second half even started. But they hung in there, produced some crucial defensive stops and got their act together, scoring 21 unanswered points and turning it into a very exciting ball game. At the end of the day, however, the newly worn copper helmets did not end up giving the Wildcats the karma they needed to pull this one out. The loss left a bad taste in the mouths of the Wildcat faithful, a game in which Arizona was so close yet so far away. It doesn’t get any easier either: Arizona’s next three opponents are Stanford at Stanford, Washington and USC.