The Arizona football team stepped in class on Saturday night, and it was very apparent it couldn’t handle the climb.
What else can be said for a program that continues to use the word “building” as it moves forward. It’s likely “building” will be the buzzword for 2022.
Still, Mississippi State didn’t exactly dominate the game at Arizona Stadium but it also didn’t really need to in beating Arizona 39-17 in front of an inspiring 46,000-plus fans.
Arizona coach Jedd Fisch used the terms “ebbs and flows” and “ups and downs” a time a two after the loss.
They were accurate given Arizona had too many turnovers. Too many dropped balls. Too many missed opportunities. After scoring on its first possession – once again giving Arizona hope – Arizona couldn’t muster enough offense despite getting into Bulldogs’ territory eight of 14 times.
MSU proved to be too much for the Wildcats, who raised hopes just a week ago in beating San Diego State.
Then again, here’s the rub: how good is San Diego State? How good is Mississippi State? And, well, just how good is Arizona?
Wouldn’t you say the jury is still out and the sample size of two games is hardly enough to figure out the Cats?
Arizona showed growing pains, throughout. And that was from the veterans and the rookies, alike.
Jayden de Laura wasn’t the same good-decision-making quarterback we saw last week. Jacob Cowing dropped balls as did Tetairoa McMillan (T-Mac).
Arizona’s offensive and defensive lines were overwhelmed way too many times.
Then again, what did you expect from a team that was an 11-point underdog … at home?
“As we continue on this build, we’re gonna go through some ebbs and flows,” Arizona coach Jedd Fisch said. “We have a lot of young, we have a lot of new, and we’re continuing to try to improve every single day, which we will. It’s exciting to see us play the way we played defensively, took the ball away three times. Clearly, we’re getting what we emphasized there.”
But there were not enough. Not to beat an SEC team that was slated to finish near the bottom of its half of the conference. Again, though, what did you expect?
“I think that as we trust the process, and our kids understand they’re gonna go out there (Sunday) and they’re gonna have a hard practice, and they’re gonna embrace that grind,” Fisch said. “They’re gonna continue to build off of it because what we’re gonna see here over the next three years is we’re gonna see T-Mac make most of his plays. We’re gonna see Jonah (Coleman) continue to break tackles. We’re gonna see all the young guys be able to handle some things, and I am looking forward to that. I think every single day you see our football team improve, and as long as we can keep doing that will be okay.”
Perhaps the most frustrating area – other than the loss – was de Laura’s decision not to run when it was apparent, he had room to run and make a play.
“There were some good plays that he made,” Fisch said. “Drove us down a bunch of times. But there (were) just too many critical errors that we need to improve upon, and I can help them out there.”
As for not running, well, “That’s something we talked about, and I think we’ll get better there. I can do a better job at practice making sure that he recognizes that those running opportunities, when they do present themselves, and take advantage of them in a game versus sometimes in practice you want to try and make the receiver work and the DB work and whatnot. That’s on me. I think that he’ll continue to improve. Jayden is a special player, and he will continue to lead us.”
He’s not on an island. Arizona’s run game was a non-factor. Fisch said “down and distance” was a problem given the time and circumstance. Still, Arizona didn’t have an effective running game unlike last week.
“I would certainly say what was very frustrating was that, we wound up snapping the ball over our head and now it’s a 2nd and 19,” Fisch said. “We never got into the good down and distances that would allow us to continue to run the football. And then we wind up in those two two-minute drives. We need to be able to run the ball better. And I think when we can have balance, we’re a better football team.”