There will be no bowl for the Arizona Wildcats, no going out in a blaze of glory for senior quarterback Nick Foles.
The fourth quarter of the season is all that remains for the Wildcats, adrift with a 2-7 record after a 34-21 home loss to Utah on Saturday at Arizona Stadium.
By the end of the game, judging by the number of fans in the stadium, you would have thought it was a spring scrimmage.
Judging by the mistakes on special teams, dropped passes, missed throws, busted coverages and number of penalties … well, you would have thought it was a spring scrimmage.
For those who don’t put on the uniform, the rest of this month is mostly going to be a long wait, straining to hear the faintest of whispers, until athletic director Greg Byrne announces a new head coach.
Those who put on the uniform are vowing to not give up.
“I’m going to cherish every game I play in,” Foles said.
“Every game is a bowl game for me. I’m honest. There is going to be no give-up on this team; I’m going to make sure of that. … Nothing changes in my mind.”
It was a similar and familiar refrain all around after a game that followed a similar and familiar script to the first half of the season: Goof up early, fall behind by double-digits in the first half, rally to get within striking distance and then come up short.
“From my vantage point on the sideline, that was a team that played hard for 60 minutes,” Kish said.
“They fought to the very last second of the game and have no reason to hang their head. They have reason to be disappointed because you cannot make critical mistakes like we made tonight against a good football team and expect to have a good outcome.”
A failed fake field goal on Arizona’s first drive. A blocked punt on Arizona’s second drive, leading to a Utah field goal. Another punt that was deflected. Two long Utah touchdown passes against a pair of injury-replacement cornerbacks (Jourdon Grandon and then Lyle Brown). Keola Antolin’s lost fumble near midfield early in the fourth quarter.
There were 11 penalties for 96 yards. There was Foles’ first interception, which set up a 30-yard touchdown drive in the second quarter. There was Foles’ second interception, which was the dagger through the heart of a potential comeback.
Arizona had first-and-goal from 2 with just under eight minutes to play, trailing 27-14. Foles threw toward Austin Hill in the right corner of the end zone, but cornerback Conroy Black stepped in front of Hill to make the interception.
“I just made a bad throw,” Foles said. “It just wasn’t a good ball.”
After Conroy’s 57-yard return, Utah marched in for a touchdown to safely put the game out of Arizona’s grasp.
“The team, after the game, I know they’re heartbroken. It’s tough,” Foles said.
“It’s a Homecoming game, senior year. It hasn’t gone the way I expected, but guys are going to stick together. We’re family. This is just a bad time. We’re going to fight together. We’re going to stick together. It hurts, but we still have each other and that is the most important thing.”
Kish said he knows people consider him “the eternal optimist” and that he still sees hunger when he looks in his players’ eyes, even after the loss to Utah.
But there’s really only one thing left that matters.
Next week’s game at 1-9 Colorado? Who cares? The season-ender vs. Louisiana-Lafayette? Good tickets available.
The game at Arizona State on Nov. 19? Now, we’re talking.
ASU lost Saturday at UCLA, which lost badly at Arizona, so if college football really were like a mathematical equation, you’d say the Wildcats were better than ASU (or at least had a reasonable shot). The Sun Devils’ loss dropped them into a tie for the Pac-12 South lead, so that game in two weeks could have implications in the division race.
This is good reason for the Wildcats to stick together, at least for two more weeks.
“We’ve never been a team that has quit,” said senior receiver David Douglas, “and we’re not going to start.”