Arizona Football

Strange Night in Arizona Wildcats’ 24-20 Loss to USC

At least Arizona made it close.

Well, kind of close after being out played for about 50 minutes of the 60-minute game. USC could have easily won the game – maybe, probably? – because it was that one sided for the 60-minute game that eventually ended up in a fluky 24-20 outcome at Arizona Stadium where in the end about 10,000 fans of the 43,000 who went stayed to watch a 1-yard touchdown take nine plays, a missed extra point and an ineffective onside kick.

Colin Schooler stops a USC player from gaining yards. (Photo courtesy UA athletics)

There were stages – lengthy ones – where you wonder which was worse: Arizona’s defense or its offense. It’s offense for nearly three quarters looked as exciting as gluten-free bread.

Call it a strange Saturday night in Arizona Stadium. You’ve seen them before, and a few times Arizona had been able to pull it out. Just not on this Saturday night in a season of mystery and intrigue that involves quarterback Khalil Tate, who looked OK at times and not so OK at others.

And that’s referring to his possibly injured ankle and his overall play.

When asked how he felt out there running Arizona’s offense, Tate said, “how did I look?”

Not for me to say but since he asked: ineffective at times and sometimes affective. He did throw two touchdowns in Arizona’s second-half comeback.

When asked a follow up about looking good and then sometimes not because he looks like he’s limping, Tate he was “healthy enough to play.”

What all that means is, well, anyone’s guess. So, the mystery continues and will likely all year. The mystery of Tate not running is still there, too.

At the very least it’s confusing to those who are observing. When asked if he sees opportunities for Tate to run, Sumlin said, “sure, I see the same things you see.”

Do you talk to him about taking those opportunities?

“Yes,” Sumlin said.

Is he frustrated he’s not taking them?

“Not frustrated, no,” Sumlin said. “It’s easy to second guess and easy to do a lot of things when your watching. He ran more to tonight than he’s run all year, I get it.”

Yet, as is his protocol, Sumlin said he wouldn’t evaluate Tate’s game until later and he’d discuss it on Monday.
“I’ve got to see everything that has happened,” he said.

Now, back to Tate. Clearly, he didn’t want to be in the postgame press conference – at least it didn’t appear to be – given he even forgot that he threw an ill-advised interception in the second quarter. At least he didn’t remember it.

Yes, strange.

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A bit strange that Arizona seemingly didn’t come to play in the first half and was down 17-0 by halftime.

“We didn’t play hard all four quarters,” Tate said about his team. “We started playing hard, but it didn’t start coming until the second half. That’s something to be a good team or halfway decent you have to play all four quarters. That’s what we didn’t do.”

Again, all strange given the magnitude of what is at stake: Arizona would have been able to stay atop the Pac-12 Conference South Division but instead is 1-1 in the conference and 2-3 overall. And there’s a long road ahead with California, Utah, UCLA, Oregon, Colorado, Washington State and Arizona State left.

If nothing has been easy to this point imagine the difficulty ahead.

“As I told our guys tonight, we are working on us,” Sumlin said. “We’ve got to execute better across the board. All that being said, we get a field goal blocked and miss an extra point. If we just execute those things, it’s a tie game, it’s an overtime game.”

Of course, the dynamics of the game would have had to have fallen perfectly to make that happen. But it seemed USC did just enough to get in and out of town. Which, of course, is the name of the game in athletics.

Arizona did have its chance, however, but it took nine – yes, nine – plays to get into the endzone from the 1-yard line. Those nine plays took nearly two minutes and became so frustrating for UA and coach Sumlin that he contemplated kicking a field goal instead of going for the touchdown. Eventually, with 1:43 left, Arizona’s Gary Brightwell got in. Only to later see Lucas Havrisik miss the extra point.

“I’ll say this, we’ve had a couple of these games where we don’t quit, and they are playing like crazy at the end,” Sumlin said. “In the huddle they did not want to kick a field goal. They wanted to score.”

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