The Arizona Wildcats were a 36-yard kick away from yet another miracle finish, a 6-0 record and improving upon their No. 10 national ranking. But on Saturday against USC, first-year starter Casey Skowron’s attempt went wide right, deflating a sold-out Arizona Stadium.
UA coach Rich Rodriguez said there’s plenty of blame to go around for the Wildcats’ first loss of the season — and Arizona (5-1, 2-1 Pac-12) will use its upcoming bye week to eliminate those mistakes, heal up and prepare for the second half of the season that includes a full slate of difficult conference matchups.
“If we fix what we screwed up Saturday and get our focus back for the second half of the season, I definitely think we can be a better team, and possibly a little healthier, I would hope,” Rodriguez told Doug and Wolf on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Monday.
“We had a few mental errors. It wasn’t a lot, but a few. We had a few more technical errors, whether it was footwork or route-running or where our eyes were at, or defensively — fitting in the right gap. Those are the things we’ve got to fix first.”
The Wildcats nearly pulled off their second consecutive improbable come-from-behind win at home. After scoring 36 fourth-quarter points, including a last-second Hail Mary pass, to beat Cal on Sept. 20, UA was a kick away from overcoming a 15-point fourth-quarter deficit against the Trojans.
Following a touchdown and an unsuccessful two-point try with just over a minute to play to trim USC’s lead to 28-26, Skowron executed his second successful onside kick of the season. But Skowron, who came into the game 11-for-13 on field-goal attempts, missed three kicks Saturday, including what likely would have been the game-winner.
Nonetheless, Rodriguez said there’s room for improvement across the board. Arizona was dominated at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, USC’s Javorius Allen recorded over 200 rushing yards and scored three times, and the Wildcats scored just six first-half points despite making five trips inside the Trojans’ 35-yard line.
“What’s so disappointing is we had so many opportunities to score points and be right there for the first three and a half quarters and we didn’t do it, and yet we still had a chance to win the game at the end and do it,” he said. “It’s really disappointing when you look back and say, ‘Golly, we could’ve did this, we could’ve did that.’