The year has changed. The results haven’t.
Arizona lost its sixth consecutive game to a team from the Football Bowl Subdivision on Thursday night — dropping a 37-14 decision at Oklahoma State — and it did so in ways that bring to mind the disastrous second half of last season.
Sloppy. Uninspiring. Frustrating.
“That was a tough night in a lot of ways,” coach Mike Stoops said in his postgame news conference Thursday night from Stillwater, Okla.
“Oklahoma State … I think they’re a much better team, a more complete team, this year than they were a year ago. We knew we were really going to have to play well tonight.”
Committing 11 penalties, losing a fumble at the OSU 32, turning the ball over on downs at the 5, letting the Cowboys convert their first five third-down attempts en route to a 21-0 lead, getting beat on a momentum-turning fake punt in the third quarter … well, none of that was the “playing well” Arizona needed to make some sort of game out of it.
“You can’t be successful every week if you’re making mistakes like that. We can’t. Some teams can, but we’re not capable of that,” said quarterback Nick Foles.
“We’ve got to be a lot better than that. We’ve got to be a lot more disciplined. We’ll work on it. We’ll get it right.”
Until they do, the Wildcats, as currently constructed, aren’t equipped to handle teams that are really, really good.
Last season, the Cats weren’t competitive against 10th-ranked Stanford (42-17), got blown away in the second half at top-ranked Oregon (48-29) and rolled over early in the Alamo Bowl against 16th-ranked Oklahoma State (36-10).
That’s a lot of points (163) and yards allowed (1,965) in those four games against ranked teams … and a bunch of instances in which Arizona’s offensive inconsistencies contributed to the lopsided finals.
Arizona fell behind 21-0 on Thursday night, and then held Oklahoma State without points for five consecutive possessions. But the Wildcats were coughing and sputtering on offense, too, managing to trim the deficit to only 21-7, never able to raise the threat level to a code red.
And, so, another loss.
There are plenty of teams that, given Arizona’s schedule, would also have fallen to Stanford, Oregon and twice to Oklahoma State since the middle of last season. But it’s just not the losses that are accumulating, it’s the point differential.
Making the Wildcats competitive again was one of the things that Stoops accomplished in his rebuilding of Arizona. The Wildcats recently had a stretch of 31 games in which they went 19-12 and never lost by more than 10 points — basically, able to hang with anybody.
Then came the Holiday Bowl no-show against Nebraska … and then the four lopsided losses in the past half season or so.
Painfully for a former Oklahoma Sooner, Stoops was able to look across the field at Thursday night and see that he wants what Oklahoma State has.
“That’s a big, physical team, and you can tell they’ve made the step,” Stoops said. “They’re not a good program; they’re turning into a great one.”
Arizona is still waiting.
Game blog: Running game is ‘our nemesis,’ Stoops says