Arizona Football

Arizona Wildcats Notes: Fallout From 24-20 Loss to USC

If only the fourth quarter was the only one that counted.

Arizona has saved its best for last in its losses to BYU, Houston and USC — outscoring those opponents 34-7 in the fourth quarter — but all they have to show for it is an 0-3 record in those games.

Arizona was outscored way too much in the first three quarters of those games because of multiple breakdowns — quarterback play, dropped passes, blocking issues with the running game, penalties, broken plays, ineffective defense (especially on third downs), lack of big plays on defense, porous defense against the run … you name it.

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BYU outscored Arizona 28-10 through the first three quarters. Houston 38-10. USC 24-7. Combined, they outscored Arizona 90-27 in the first three quarters. That’s an average of 30-9 Arizona was outscored in the first three quarters of those losses. That’s a hole the size of Grand Canyon.

“We just didn’t execute,” said receiver Tony Ellison. “We are a great football team and we just need to stop waiting until the second half to start executing our plays.”

A great football team?

The best thing about that statement is Arizona’s players still believe in themselves, at least publicly, but a great team Arizona is not right now.

— What’s the difference for Arizona between starting 2-0 or otherwise after two games in conference play? Entering this season, about 26.7 percentage points. That’s significant because 26.7 percent of a nine-game conference schedule is roughly a difference of two to three wins.

The Wildcats have started 2-0 in the Pac-10/12 still only 11 times since they joined the league in 1978. They obviously have never won the title when doing so. They have a 58-29-1 conference record when it happens, or a winning percentage of 66.5 percent. They are 72-110-5 otherwise, a winning percentage of only 39.8.

A 2-0 start has happened only twice since 2000 (in 2008 & 2014). No wonder the magic since that 12-1 season in 1998 has felt lost.

At 1-1, Arizona is now, historically, on the end of winning only 40 percent of its Pac-12 games, or having about four wins, which would result at best a 5-7 overall record given the Wildcats’ 1-2 non-conference record. Many projected Arizona to have at least eight wins this season.

— Through five games, opponents have attempted 162 passes and Arizona has only intercepted one of them. Quick: Do you know who has Arizona’s lone interception? Tick … tick … tick. Hard to remember when it does not happen often (or not all). It was safety Jarrius Wallace in the rout over Southern Utah during garbage time.

Arizona is intercepting only 0.6 percent percent of its opponents’ passing attempts this season. The school record for lowest percentage in a season is 1.3 in 1999 (only five passes intercepted out of 373 attempts). That’s the team that followed up the storied 1998 team by falling flat with a 6-6 record, getting blown out by Penn State in the opener and losing four of its last five games.

Arizona did not recover a fumble this season until 1:56 remained in the second half last night. That’s 208 minutes, 4 seconds, of game time before the first fumble recovery. Arizona finished with three fumble recoveries against the Trojans.

The school record for fewest fumbles recovered is four in 2013, the year before Scooby Wright’s breakout season.

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Three-dot data: Arizona sophomore RB J.J. Taylor dipped from No. 11 nationally to No. 21 in rushing after gaining only 50 yards on 18 carries against USC. He has three games with 54 yards or less (against Houston, Southern Utah and USC), so the 284 yards last week against a very porous Oregon State defense was important to boosting his stats. He has 527 yards (105.4 yards a game) on 89 carries. … Redshirt sophomore S Jarrius Wallace finished with nine tackles, tying his career high, set last season at California. Wallace made his third consecutive start for the Wildcats at the Bandit safety position. … USC committed 18 penalties for 169 yards. Both the amount of penalties and the yards are the most ever by an Arizona opponent in a single game. The previous record for penalty yards by an opponent was 167 set by Oklahoma State in 2012. The most penalties by an opponent in a single game was 15, done several times, most recently by Oklahoma State. … Arizona was held to 98 rushing yards by USC. It marked the first time Arizona didn’t eclipse the 100-yard rushing mark as a team since rushing for 60 yards at USC in 2015. Arizona lost that game 38-30.

FOLLOW @JAVIERJMORALES ON TWITTER! publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports,, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.

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