The Arizona Wildcats dropped their second game of the season and second game within the Pac-12 South in their 17-7 loss to the UCLA from the Rose Bowl on Saturday night. Here are five things we learned.
Freshman woes: The Arizona Wildcats got off to a great start in the game scoring on their first drive on a 14 yard touchdown pass from Anu Soloman to Cayleb Jones. But that would be it offensively for the Wildcats. Soloman started the game completing just four of his first 16 throws. He finished the game 18 of 48 for a 175 yards, a touchdown and an interception. We have seen the inexperience at times with Anu but at no point this season have we seen him struggle this much to get the offense going.
Offensive woes: Solomon being the quarterback will have the microscope on him as one of the main reasons for the Wildcats struggles offensively on Saturday night but it really just tells part of the story. UCLA’s defense was flying around having sacked Solomon three times, tallied five tackles for loss and had ten pass breakups in the game. The Wildcats are able to go when the running game goes and that was not the case as the running backs averaged 2.6 yards per carry and were led by Terris Jones-Grigsby who had 50 yards on 11 carries. The Wildcats had 13 drives after their opening drive touchdown. 11 resulted in a punt, six were drives going three and out and two resulted in a missed field goal. The 255 yards of total offense are the fewest the Wildcats have ever had during the Rich Rod era.
“Well the offense was poor – poorly called, poorly executed, poorly played, starting with the coaching staff,” said Rich Rodriguez after the game. “Poorly called, poorly played, poorly executed. I give them credit, they did a nice job they played hard, and we played hard, too. They played better than us.”
Punting precision: The punter more often than not only gets noticed when things go wrong. Not in this article. One of the biggest bright spots for the Wildcats on Saturday night was despite the offensive struggles, was their punter. UCLA started with tough field position because of how good Drew Riggleman was in the game. He had ten punts in the game and averaged just under 50 yards per. He had three land inside the 20 and one punt that went for 70 yards. This type performance from Riggleman is nothing new. He has been one of the best in the conference all season. But what he was able to do with his leg really kept the Wildcats in the game much longer than what might had been the case seeing how much the offensive struggled.
Scooby Sacks: What else can you say about linebacker Scooby Wright that hasn’t already been said. The man is having one of the best seasons of any in the country at his position and he was at it again at the Rose Bowl. He had a career high 19 total tackles in the game with three sacks and 4.5 tackles for loss. He now has 12 sacks on the year and finished the game just three tackles shy of the most by a Wildcat in a game.
No room for error: The Wildcats can still control their own destiny in the Pac-12 South despite the loss to UCLA but it will not be easy. They return home to Tucson to face Colorado and then it’s back out on the road for a huge game at Utah who lost to ASU on Saturday night. If the Wildcats can manage to win out leading up to the Territorial Cup and ASU does the same, which they will most likely do with Oregon State and Washington State the two conference games they have left prior, Arizona could take the Pac-12 South with a win over the Sun Devils. Arizona will need to shake this one off and bounce back like they have proven they can do multiple times already this season.
“I’m not worried about it,” stated Rodriguez. “I’m not worried about their feelings. We just didn’t play well. I thought we were a little loose at times. Practices were good but we were, for lack of a better word, too giggly. That makes me a little uneasy at times. We won’t be giggly this week in practice.”