Ah, the frustrations of progress.
You try to ease up on the expectations. You try to focus on the rebuilding process. But the problem is, half our team is good enough to win right now. The Arizona defense is good enough to win six times and go to a bowl game. 20, 21, 20, 0, 17. That's how many points the defense has given up in five Pac-10 games. That's not dominating, but it's a lot better than we've been in a long time, and it should be good enough to play .500 ball.
So when any sort of points go on the board you get your hopes up. Again. And then you're left walking away from the stadium with the same disappointment.
The night got off to a strange start. That was the first time I've ever heard a beatbox national anthem, and all I can say is…that was the first time I've ever heard a beatbox national anthem.
As far as the game, Anthony Johnson recorded his first career start at quarterback. At least there's no quarterback controversy.
We made Oregon State look like the Heisman-producing USC offense in the first quarter, until Matt Moore threw it straight to Marcus Hollingsworth, and he actually caught it! But a couple plays later, Heavner fumbled the snap. Bring back, Johnson!
Play to steal: OSU ran a couple standard screens to the tailback. Then they showed the exact same look but instead threw to a tight end in the middle of the field for a nice gain. Bravo.
Play to lose: We have the ball second and goal from the two, and we run an option. With Kris Heavner. Running to his left. It was probably the best-case scenario to only lose a single yard.
That entire sequence at the end of the first half was brutal. We bait the Beavers into a MattMoore and Dane Krogstad returns it all the way to the OSU 13. From there it takes us four plays to gain 11 yards, then another four plays net one yard. Eight plays from scrimmage, 12 yards, zero points. Good gracious.
To add to the missed opportunities, the defense got the ball right back and the O went back to work in Beaver territory with a minute and change in the half. It was a great call to throw a short pass to Henry who took it 29 yards and out of bounds on the OSU 9. It was then a terrible call to try the exact same thing on the very next play. With no timeouts you have to throw into the end zone right there. We ended up having to spike the ball to stop the clock and then kick the field goal on third down.
Two consecutive possessions, eight snaps inside the opponents' ten-yard line, three points. Very heavy sigh.
Trying to stay positive, I think Chris Henry has earned his starting job back. It was right to give Jennings a chance, and now it's right to feature Henry once again. He's always had more raw tools to work with (especially his pure speed) and the last couple weeks he's been dancing a lot less and moving forward a lot more. Against OSU he was our leading rusher (which isn't saying much) but he was also our leading receiver by a large margin (8 catches for 87 yards). As long as Chris H. keeps running hard and running smart, we need to keep giving him the ball.
More positive: 78-yard punt. Oh yeah.
Most positive: Syndric Steptoe saying, "What fumble?" and running back a punt 67 yards without breaking stride.
It was at this point that you started to think we could make a Chicago Bearsian comeback. All we needed was for the Wildcat defense to get their hands on the ball one more time and then treat it like a rugby play and start lateraling it a bunch.
Mike Stoops must have sensed it too. He accepted a penalty on a play that resulted in a fourth and 11 in an attempt to get a turnover or a few extra yards. It worked, and the Beavers ended up with a fourth and 22.
That led to our first possession with a chance to take the lead since we took the opening kickoff. On second and four Heavner completed a pass for a first down only to have it called back for an illegal formation of all things. The next play was a run for a loss of five followed by our first sack of the entire game. R.I.P. another drive. Why do we have to kill momentum instantly? Can't we at least leave it on life support for a while?
You have to give the offensive line some credit. There weren't a lot of running holes, but to go almost three full quarters without giving up a sack is big improvement. There were no false starts the entire game either. Keep working, young fellas.
Hope returned once more when Dominic "I Guess It's Not Spearing If They Don't Call It" Patrick forced a fumble and the Arizona offense again took the field on OSU's side of the 50. However… 1) botched attempt to draw the defense offside, 2) incompletion, 3) three-yard pass, 4) everybody sit down.
Oregon State tacked on a field goal, which meant we needed a miracle (i.e., seven points) just to tie. By the way, if you're a 5-6 (at best) dude named Alexis, you'd better be really good at kicking a football.
Our beleaguered offense makes us do some really unorthodox things. There were still five and a half minutes left in a one-possession game and we were going for it on fourth down at our own 29-yard line. And it was absolutely the correct call. Desperate times and all that.
Earl Mitchell then made a sweet catch along the sideline for a first down (why on earth are we not throwing to that guy more?), and Chris Henry picked up a strong first down on third and one. Back into OSU territory we went. But, alas, it was time for a rerun of Heave it to Beaver and we were turned away once again.
One final possession, one last gasp, but we need to go 80 yards in 59 seconds with no timeouts. Our only hope was for OSU to bring out the defense UCLA used against Notre Dame.
Sure enough we get all the way down to the Beaver 28 behind 30 yards from Henry and 22 from Steptoe. But Heavner picked a really bad time to get sacked forcing us to spike the ball with only 12 seconds left on the 40-yard line. Then we couldn't even set up a proper Hail Mary and the final Kris Heave was picked off.
Our next contest is against Washington State, which means we're trying to go 2-0 against Cougars this year. If it happens we'll have to get Houston, the College of Charleston and John Mellencamp on the schedule ASAP.
To those of you thinking about Willie Tuitama coming back immediately after the bye: WSU is fourth in the nation in sacks and Mkristo Bruce is the third best in all the land at knocking quarterbacks to the ground. Heads up (so to speak).
I think we're all overdue for this bye week. Watch some other teams play, take a peek at the Red and Blue game, or spend the weekend away from sports entirely. Whatever you do, be sure to relax and try not to think about what the L is going on with Arizona Football.
The coaches will keep coaching, the players will keep working hard, and they'll be back on the field in a couple weeks. And we'll be here to support them.
[I'm going to follow my own advice and take bye week next week as well. We'll see you again on Nov 6.]
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