How many moral victories does a team need to start feeling better about itself? In the case of the University of Arizona, who knows?
It did get its second one on Saturday night when it had an admirable showing in a 45-37 loss against No. 10 USC in Arizona Stadium.
That makes two now, given it had a close game against Washington earlier this month. Arizona is now 3-5 overall.
“I know all of our guys hate losing, but I feel that we felt like we played a great game,” said UA’s Dorian Singer, who had a fantastic game with three TD catches. “We need to make some tweaks here and there, and we can win more games here down the stretch.”
That will soon be seen, but heck, even USC coach Lincoln Riley said it was “a gutsy win” against Arizona. How many coaches say that after beating Arizona?
But, he’s right. Lose to Arizona and everything this season is lost. Win – no matter how – and everything is still there.
For Arizona, it was a very good showing against a talented team, thus the moral victory. And if you date back, four, three, two, hell, one year ago. This team would not have played like it did.
Arizona’s offense was fun to watch – again. The defense was, um, better. Kind of.
So, there’s that. Still, moral victory?
“No,” head coach Jedd Fisch said when asked about believing in moral victories. “I’m a believer in the concept of getting better. And I think that, as I said to our team, you’re not going to win every battle to win a war. But we’re going to just go fight in every battle, and we’ll win enough of them here as we continue on this process. The word moral victory, (is) not really for me. It’s just a matter for us is how did Arizona football play today. And I thought we played well.”
In the first half, Arizona went toe-to-toe matching scoring drives for scoring drives, albeit one being a field goal to USC’s touchdown to make it 17-14 at the half.
Then came the second half with USC pulled away and Arizona pushed back. That wasn’t to be expected, although a shootout was.
The two teams got the shootout and Arizona still had shots late in the game, having a chance with a last minute onside kick that didn’t work.
Still, this was U-S-C and Arizona is still finding its footing.
“That was as competitive a football game as we we’ve been in,” Fisch said. “We’ve had some really good ones around here since I’ve been here. But we are just getting better. And I think that was a step in the right direction on this build. And I’m excited to see where our team can go.”
Who isn’t. Wins are fun – and they’ve had three – and teasing the wins are well, just teases.
But again, Arizona has had few of those through the recent years, so you have to start somewhere.
“I thought that there was not a time in the game that we didn’t think we were gonna win the game,” Fisch said. “There was not a time in the game that we didn’t feel we could go head to head with that team.”
And they did and have through the years. Something in USC tends to bring out the best in Arizona. It did on Saturday night.
“(USC) just found a way to get one more score than we (did),” Fisch said. “And I think that it’s a matter of … I think that they’re continuing to grow and develop the players they have. I think we’re continuing to grow and develop the players we have. We’re playing with a lot of younger players than probably those teams are. I think we started six true freshmen. So sometimes that’s gonna happen. Hats off to Washington, hats off to USC, they got good teams, good offense, and we’re coming for them.”
Saturday UA did until, well, it couldn’t any longer.