On Friday, in our game preview, we touched on how big of a game this was for the Arizona Wildcats. Following their 38-35 loss to the Oregon St. Beavers, the cause for concern is starting to increase.
First, the game itself. Arizona could have won. Take away a silly special teams play or two, maybe make one or two more tackles on a few key drives and the game goes to the Wildcats. This team is talented, but still very, very young. They are going to make mistakes, and the fact that they have already made such big strides from last year is a testament of how good the new coaching staff is.
All of this being said, it could be a rough month for UA football.
The team has played one of the hardest schedules in the nation. Toledo's lone loss is to the Wildcats. Oklahoma State looks like a solid bowl team. Oregon may be the best team in the country. And Oregon State is awfully tough on both sides of the ball.
Next week is a road trip to Stanford. They're going to be mad following their upset loss to Washington. Then the Wildcats welcome in those same Washington Huskies, followed by the USC Trojans. UA finishes this stretch with a road trip to take on the UCLA Bruins. All four of those teams are currently ranked in the top 25.
Anything more than one win in this stretch would probably be considered a success.
Then, there was the injury aspect of the loss. Matt Scott's hip is clearly bothering him, and he was seen limping off the field once the game wrapped up. Emerging safety Jared Tevis sprained his ankle and is likely to miss some time. Offensive lineman Kyle Quinn left the game with what appeared to be a serious lower-body ailment of some kind.
All of these injuries, and we're not even in October.
It'll be a true test for this team to respond. They're down, and the schedule is only going to get tougher. A bowl game is still a possibility for UA in 2012, but the next couple of weeks are going to be huge.
Are the Wildcats going to battle back, have players step up for their injured teammates and remain relevant in the Pac-12? Or do they spiral down the way they did last season, sending out their seniors with a couple of lengthy losing streaks?
We know which way the team went during the Mike Stoops era in Tucson. Which way do they go under Rich Rodriguez? We're about to find out.