It’s going to get worse before it gets better for the Arizona football team.
“We just get exposed some times when we play top teams,” coach Mike Stoops said after a 37-10 home loss to Stanford on Saturday night, “and hopefully we’ll be better because of it.”
That might happen at some point. But probably not next Saturday against preseason Pac-12 favorite Oregon. Will this nightmare ever end?
At this point, in Stoops’ eighth season, you would hope that the Cats would be competitive against everybody. That notion has gone flying out of the stadium.
It’s one thing to routinely lose to top 10 teams, it’s quite another to routinely be a chew toy on ESPN, again and again.
“Our immaturity shows up against good football teams,” Stoops said. “I don’t know what else to tell you.”
He could tell us it’s all going to be all right, but 99 out of 100 fans probably aren’t buying it.
Arizona’s 1-2 record and its seven-game losing streak are going to get uglier after the Ducks have their day. The Wildcats are just too young and inexperienced where it matters — along both lines — to threaten an elite team for 60 minutes … unless every bounce, every replay review, every critical situation, goes their way.
And making a field goal or two along the way would help, too.
Even all that might not be enough.
“It’s easy to point fingers through this,” quarterback Nick Foles said, “which is something we’re not going to do.”
Much that has happened in the past two weeks has been disheartening, discouraging and let’s throw another “dis” in there — disgusting. But it hasn’t really been surprising.
Arizona has been outscored 74-24 by Oklahoma State and Stanford, simply continuing the negative trends from late last season.
In its seven-game losing streak to FBS foes, Arizona has allowed 206 rushing yards per game. Stanford went for 242 yards on 39 carries, and that included three kneel-downs at the end of the game. Arizona has allowed a 100-yard rusher in four of its past six games vs. FBS teams (which excludes lower-division NAU at the start of this season).
Oregon comes to town this week with its blur-rific read-option running game.
Expect anything different?
Nah, me neither.
If you can’t stop the run, you’re really not going to be winning much.
It is startling how “clean” the Arizona defensive stats are from Saturday night. No sacks. No tackles for loss. No forced fumbles. No interceptions.
Stanford: 10 tackles for loss.
“Our lack of maturity on the line of scrimmage in both areas really shows in games like this,” Stoops said.
But the Cats’ season isn’t going to be defined by a lack of an upset — or even a lack of competitiveness — through this ridiculously tough stretch of Oklahoma State, Stanford and Oregon.
Going back further, nobody in the country has had a tougher schedule in the past two-thirds of a season. Stanford twice. Oklahoma State twice. Now, Oregon twice. Each team is at historic highs in its program. “Breather” games in that stretch came against USC and rival Arizona State, which were close losses.
Think of your favorite NFL team: What if it had to play the Patriots twice, the Packers twice and the Steelers twice in an eight-game span? Probably wouldn’t be pretty.
Arizona hasn’t competed nearly well enough against elite teams. OK, we get it. The Wildcats aren’t a top 10 team.
But Arizona did compete in this losing streak against teams closer to its level — USC and Arizona State.
There’s enough talent here to do so again this season.
Despite the problems on the offensive line and the defensive line and with the kicking game and in the running game and with an overall offense still prone to lulls, once Arizona leaves September behind, the teams left on the schedule are less capable of exposing all those weaknesses at once.
The season begins Oct. 1 at USC, if you can hang in there until then.
“You can’t freak out about this,” Foles said. “It’s early in the season, and we have to stick together. This is when the team shows what we’re all about.”