It went through a fired coach, had a replacement who has never been a head coach before, was battling injuries, and played in front of a lackluster crowd.
Instead of giving in, it did just the opposite.
Arizona built an early lead and never looked back en route to a 48-12 win over UCLA at Arizona Stadium Thursday night.
"First off, it has been a very emotional ten days for us as a program," Tim Kish said. "I'm very proud of our seniors and how they stepped into a leadership role. the team rallied around them and really earned the win tonight."
Arizona started on its own 20 with an 18-yard carry by Daniel Jenkins. After an incomplete pass, Keola Antolin gained 20 yards on the ground and Gino Crump gained 12 more in the air. After an incomplete pass and a run for no gain by Nick Foles, Foles connected with Dan Buckner for 26 yards to UCLA's four-yard line. On the following play, UCLA corner Sheldon Price fell, leaving Juron Criner wide open for the touchdown, as the extra point made it 7-0 in favor of the Wildcats.
The Wildcats then forced the Bruins into a three and out due in large part to a dropped pass by a wide open Josh Smith. Arizona took over on its own 24-yard line with a two-yard run by Antolin and ten-yard completion by Crump. Antolin then followed with a three-yard run and Criner then gained six in the air. The UA offense went into a no huddle and caught UCLA offsides, giving it a first down.
After an incomplete pass, a broken play allowed Foles to run for seven yards. He then completed a five-yard pass to David Douglas and an eight-yard pass to Criner. Taimi Tutogi gained 11 yards on the ground to UCLA's 18 and Ka'deem Carey ran it in in the next play, as the extra point made it 14-0 with a little over seven minutes left in the first quarter.
The Bruins needed an answer badly and started on their own 27 with a 24-yard screen pass to Johnathan Franklin followed by a four-yard run. Derrick Coleman then gained four of his own on the ground and Joseph Fauria caught a four-yard pass from Kevin Prince. Prince then found Josh Smith for seven yards and Jordon James for nine.
Franklin then gained seven on the ground and the Bruins followed with an incomplete pass to force third down and three. On that third down, Coleman ran for a loss of two, but the Bruins decided to go for it. Prince was able to get the defense to follow him and then reversed directions, finding an open Franklin for the 16-yard touchdown, as the extra point made it 14-7.
Arizona tried to come up with an answer of its own and started on its own 20-yard line with a sack of Nick Foles for a loss of six yards. Crump then caught two passes for a total of 22 yards. Two plays later, Antolin ran for 28 yards and Tutogi followed with eight of his own to get to the UCLA 29. Criner then caught a six-yard pass to end the first quarter and two plays into the second, Antolin had a 16-yard run. On the next play, Foles found Criner for the seven-yard touchdown pass, as the extra point made it 21-7 early in the second quarter.
The Bruins got the ball back and two plays into the drive, Franklin dropped the ball and C.J. Parish was right there to pick it up, giving Arizona the ball on its own 37. Carey started the drive with a four-yard run and Jenkins followed with four of his own. Two plays later, on fourth down, Foles connected with Crump for 27 yards.
Tutogi then gained three yards and Jenkins followed with three to give the Wildcats the ball on UCLA's one. On the next play, Tutogi ran it in and the extra point gave the Wildcats the 28-7 lead with over nine minutes left in the first half.
The Bruins once again needed an answer and started on their own 20-yard line with a 55-yard pass from Prince to Smith for 55 yards. Prince then had a six-yard run and after a false start, gained four on the ground to force a third and five. On third down, Arizona stopped Franklin for a loss of one and the 39-yard field goal attempt missed, giving Arizona the ball at its own 21.
On the first play of the series, Foles found Crump for nine yards and Tutogi failed to gain the first down. Foles then ran up the middle for two yards and the first down, as he found Antolin for nine yards on the next play. Criner then caught a five-yard pass and Buckner followed it with one of his own. After an incomplete pass, Criner made a 16-yard grab to UCLA's 33-yard line and Antolin had a nine-yard run.
After a nine-yard run by Antolin, Foles found Criner for the career-high tying third touchdown of the game, as this one came from 25 yards out and the extra point made it 35-7.
It only got worse for the Bruins, as they tried to get some momentum going. Nelson Rosario caught a 26-yard pass, but then fumbled, giving Arizona the ball at its own 41.
"we played the Desert Swarm, Double Eagle Glex, defense tonight and I felt that the players had fun with the game," Kish said. "it fit into our defense against UCLA and got a lot better with practice during the week."
Crump started the drive with an eight-yard pass and then Criner drew pass interference. Douglas then caught a nine-yard reception and Carey followed with a 16-yard run. Two plays later, Tutogi ran it in from eight yards out and the extra point made it 42-7 in favor of the Wildcats.
The first half ended with a bench-clearing scuffle and Kish says it was immediately addressed at halftime.
"Going into halftime, I wanted to make it clear that this was not something that we would condone and that it would be addressed at halftime," he said. "As a team, without discipline, you have nothing and I think the second half of the game showed improvement in our composure."
At the half, Arizona had 416 yards of total offense, 174 of which came on the ground.
The first half started with mediocre drives by both teams, as Arizona punted to start the half and then forced the Bruins to do the same. After UCLA forced the Wildcats to punt for the second time in a row, the Bruins were forced into a three and out after Nelson Rosario dropped two balls he should have caught easily.
Arizona got the ball back on its own 28-yard line and was called for holding on the first play of the series. Criner got it back on the next play with a 15-yard grab and Jenkins then gained 16 on the ground. After two incompletions and an offsides penalty on UCLA, Foles found Morrison for nine yards and the first down. Carey then gained 11 yards on the ground, but the drive stalled and Arizona settled for a 41-yard field goal by John Bonano to make it 45-7 in favor of the Wildcats.
Both teams then exchanged punts and the third quarter came to an end with Arizona completely dominating the game, as Bryson Beirne started the fourth quarter at quarterback. Jenkins started the drive with two runs for no gain before Beirne found Douglas for the 11-yard pass and first down. Jenkins then gained three on the ground and two plays later Buckner drew a pass interference penalty on the Bruins.
Jenkins gained six on the ground and Beirne then found Austin Hill for 17 yards. Two plays later, Jenkins lost a yard and on third and goal from the three, Beirne threw an incomplete pass. Bonano came in and nailed the 21-yard field goal to give the Wildcats the 48-7 lead with a little over ten minutes left in the game.
UCLA would later add a field goal and a safety, but it did not mean much, as Arizona finished with 573 yards of total offense.
"we were very focused this week and put ourselves in a cocoon, which we needed," Kish said. "it was a tough ten days and we really rallied around each other. All I wanted was for us to go out and be successful and that is exactly what we did."