Earth has reclaimed the No. 22 Arizona Wildcats.
But wasn’t it a great ride? This team was given up for dead in September, kind of like parts of Saturday night. But like this season, Arizona found a way to make it interesting.
If only October could have 35 days in it given Arizona and Khalil Tate had an October to remember. Four consecutive wins and talk of a possible Pac-12 South title.
Instead, the turn of the month on the calendar wasn’t kind to the Cats. It coincided with a date with the No. 17 USC Trojans, now the likely winner of the Pac-12 South after Saturday night’s 49-35 win over Arizona (6-3 overall, 4-2 in the Pac-12).
USC was unstoppable for most of the game, and more specifically in the fourth quarter when it pulled away. Arizona gave up 658 yards in total offense. Arizona, failed to reach 500 yards for the first time in four games. It finished with 380 yards, 307 coming from Khalil Tate, who ran for 146 yards and passed for 161 yards.
He was hardly enough.
Arizona didn’t look good for three of the four quarters, but for one of them it was good enough to put in a scare to the Trojans, scoring on four consecutive possessions.
But, USC had roped-a-doped enough after a solid first half to put away the Cats.
It’s what four and five star players eventually do to a bunch of three stars and a four-star or two.
Of course, Arizona ran out of gas, sputtering at the end after keeping it surprisingly close. Still, Arizona fans and coach Rich Rodriguez should be proud of what he/they saw. Did anyone see what Arizona looked like in September?
Arizona fought – despite being heavily overmatched – to stay close, tying it at 35 and having a chance.
Maybe he will later this week. On Saturday, not so much.
“We stunk in the first half in all phases,” Rodriguez said on his post-game radio show. “Then (in) the second half made some plays but defensively we made a couple of stops but we didn’t stop them all day … we have a lot of work to do to get better. The guys competed but it wasn’t well executed. We as coaches have to have a better plan.”
Not sure that would have mattered.
Tate & Co., did everything they could to make it close after being overpowered for the first 30 minutes.
Tate, who had been mentioned for possible Heisman consideration, was a nonfactor for the first two quarters as USC stuffed him on every turn. Then, in the third quarter he turned it on, scoring a touchdown and passing for two more. Arizona was back at it.
“We executed a little better,” Rodriguez said when asked what sparked his team’s run. “We were off a little bit and our inexperience showed at times.”
Then … USC took over.
“We didn’t challenge them pressure-wise,” Rodriguez said of trying to stop USC quarterback Sam Darnold.
And because of it UA’s defense, touted as much improved and one that bends but doesn’t break, well, bent a lot in the first half and eventually snapped in the fourth quarter.
“I saw a lot of stuff,” Rodriguez said when asked if he saw things in the first half that his team was missing on. “We stunk in every phase. That’s what I saw. It’s hard to play much worse. I wasn’t going to panic because we were only two scores down.”
Enough for Tate to get Arizona back in the game, but not for Arizona to get the win.