Arizona and Oregon squared off in a football game last Saturday night.
The game in which Oregon scored 49 yet-to-be-answered points and sent the Wildcats home with an embarrassing defeat. A loss I'm struggling to contextualize because I find 49-0 defeats usually involve an FCS school or a younger sibling; not two ranked opponents on national television.
Alas, Oregon isn't just any old ranked team and the game indeed unfolded as it did. The deeper Ducks made fewer mistakes and took advantage of Arizona's to roll. Snap judgment might consider this devastating to the Wildcats.
We can go ahead and criticize their red zone ineptitude and the five turnovers on their opponent's side of the field or continue to pile on the kicking game. Each is a valid gripe. We can point those fingers and expect to see improvement in those departments. To that effect, Arizona followed the "How to Get Blown Out" guidelines to a T.
But to judge this Arizona team based on this game would be unfair.
As seven touchdown defeats go, I found this one to be moderately encouraging. Arizona did go toe-to-toe with a title contender and - in the first thirty minutes of play - proved itself a worthy opponent. They held SI cover boy, De'Anthony Thomas, to just 48 rushing yards; a distance he's bettered thrice on individual plays this season. They forced three turnovers and took the first punch, toeing the end zone before we ever knew they'd never enter it. Then there's my favorite of all the silver lining arguments and observations.
Arizona never quit.
Despite a score that would suggest otherwise, my feeling is that the best good-or-bad barometer is in the effort put forth. You can say a lot about this game but there was no lack of try from the red and blue team.
The counter point, of course, suggests that if that was indeed Arizona giving 60-minutes of all out effort and they still found themselves on the wrong side of a 49-point shutout, then the Wildcats just ain't that good. Now's the point that we revisit the aforementioned red zone, kicking, and turnover conversation.
But I'd be curious to meet the D-coordinator excited to scheme for Matt Scott; or the running back looking forward to staring down a line that contained Thomas and Kenjon Barner to a collective 8 yards per carry under their average.
It will ultimately say a lot more about this Wildcat team to see how they react. Their response to this drubbing will be telling as to the character of this team and their long-term success.
Will we see a turnover prone, end zone-less, and thin Wildcat group this Saturday against Oregon State?
Or will we see an assertive, we're here with a purpose, copper domed squad looking to right the ship?
Whatever we see, it will tell us a lot more about this team than what happened this past weekend in Eugene.