You won’t find a more misleading introduction this season than what Arizona’s offense did Saturday night at the Rose Bowl.
The Wildcats accepted the opening kickoff and moved 75 yards in 10 plays, capped by a 14-yard scoring strike from Anu Solomon to Cayleb Jones and looked every bit like a Pac-12 championship contender.
That was it for Arizona’s offense though, as the Wildcats were shutout the rest of the way in a 17-7 loss to No. 25 UCLA. Arizona touched the ball 14 more times – 10 possessions ended in punts, two in missed field goals and two in turnovers; the Wildcats managed only 180 yards in 68 plays after that opening touchdown. Anu Solomon completed 18-of-37 passes for only 175 yards with a touchdown and an interception, and four Arizona runners gained a combined 80 yards on 31 carries.
On the opposite side, Brett Hundley was everything his preseason hype said he would be, hitting 19-of-26 passes for 189 yards and a touchdown while also leading all runners with 24 attempts for 131 yards.
After trailing 7-3 at the half, UCLA pulled ahead and then pulled away with two touchdowns in a 50-second stretch in the middle of the third quarter. Paul Perkins punched in a five-yard run to cap a 12-play, 58-yard drive at the 5:34 mark of the third quarter, and after a quick Arizona three-and-out, Hundley hit Jordan Payton for a 70-yard catch-and-run on the first play of its ensuing possession.
Arizona’s Casey Skowron missed a field goal try immediately after UCLA took its 10-point lead, and then had one blocked in the fourth quarter to put a bow on the club’s worst offensive night of the season.
The loss drops Arizona from any sort of Pac-12 playoff contention at the moment, bringing the ‘Cats below the Utah-Arizona State winner with both games still ahead later this month.
UCLA has now won three straight and has a chance to close the year with a 10-2 regular season and a respectable ranking. It wouldn’t be everything many thought it could be, but it would still be much more than UCLA has accomplished over the past decade and a half.
The Bruins are at Washington next week, while Arizona hosts Colorado.