Immediately after Saturday night’s nationally-televised loss to UCLA, Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez warned his players that film of the game might be difficult to watch. “We’re probably going to be sick watching the tape,” he told the defeated Wildcats in their home locker room following the five-point, 31-26 loss.
UCLA, then No. 16 in the country, was fortunate to have left the raucous that was Arizona Stadium on Saturday with a win, given the Wildcats’ plethora of chances to take the lead and/ or win the contest. Rodriguez’s side was more disciplined, got more first downs, didn’t give up a sack and punted better and less often, but a pair of costly plays would ultimately decide their fate.
“We had some opportunities there to maybe get ahead or to win that game and we just didn’t make it happen,” the coach explained to The Doug and Wolf show on Tuesday.
“And I’m sure every team could say that after every game. But, you know, there was a fumble on the goal line, we messed up a 4th and short up inside the red zone, and then we gave up two big plays that shouldn’t have happened.”
The first play Rodriguez mentions, the goal line fumble, came when running back Ka’ Deem Carey leapt for the end zone, the score then 24-10 UCLA, and lost the ball before crossing the plane, erasing a four-minute, 78-yard drive which included 15 and 16-yard passes and a handful of nickel and dime rushes along the way. Despite Arizona’s resilience to get the game close, the turnover would have undoubtedly changed the complexion of the game. And it will undoubtedly go down as one of the ‘opportunities’ Rodriguez spoke of when he reflected on the loss.
“They’re a good team and they’ve got some good athletes,” the second-year coach went on. “But our effort was pretty good and the crowd was into it; we just did not execute when we needed to.
“Our margin for error is very thin, you know, you mess up a few times against a solid team, you’re not going to win.”
Arizona is set to face Washington State Saturday in Tucson before rounding out their season vs. No. 6 Oregon and at No. 21 Arizona State. The Wildcats are currently 6-3 (3-3, Pac-12) and fourth in the Pac-12 South.