The Arizona Wildcats’ injury-riddled regular season came to an unceremonious end Saturday as they fell to rival Arizona State 52-37 in the annual Territorial Cup.
The team’s struggle to stay healthy, and the effort to battle through a lack of depth, clearly wore on the team and head coach Rich Rodriguez, who got emotional when talking about all his players went through after the game.
“Nope, not even close,” he said when asked if he’s ever been through a season with this many injuries. “Not especially one position. We had five, six MIKE linebackers, then you go into today and you have no depth. It’s a warm day, you’re playing a lot of plays, who are you going to put in there? The guys you’re putting in there are playing on special teams and don’t have experience.
“A coach says that kind of stuff, it sounds like excuses but the reality is it’s been a challenge since Week 1, and it’s just one of those years where you have bad luck.”
As Rodriguez noted, the Wildcats were hit particularly hard at linebacker, where the team lost Cody Ippolito to a torn ACL during camp and then saw Scooby Wright III, last year’s Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year who also claimed the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, the Chuck Bednarik Award and the Rotary Lombardi Award, appear in just more than one full game due to multiple ailments.
Even the team’s backups were not safe, as Jake Matthews — who seemed to be rounding into form late in the season — broke his foot in the team’s win over Utah in the second-to-last game of the season.
But at last, it seems as though there may be a little good news on the injury front, as FOX Sports’ Bruce Feldman is reporting Wright expects to play in Arizona’s bowl game, whenever that is. He last appeared in the Wildcats’ Sept. 26 loss to UCLA, which is when he sprained his right foot.
“It’s feeling a lot better,” Wright said before the Wildcats loss to Arizona State. In ‘Zona’s opener, Wright injured his meniscus that required surgery that caused him to miss a few games before hurting his foot.
Wright admitted he’d been frustrated by being sidelined this fall (he’s one of five middle linebackers who has been injured for Arizona this season), but told FOX Sports he got a real dose of perspective the week the Wildcats played at Stanford. “I went to visit a children’s hospital and that really put things in perspective for me.”
The bowl game could be Wright’s last for Arizona. A junior, he is reportedly considering declaring for the NFL Draft and it would not come as a surprise to anyone if he did.