Observations: Arizona vs. UCLA

Arizona lost to UCLA on Saturday and it left numerous impressions. Read on for those and more.

Playing in front of a homecoming crowd at Arizona Stadium, the Wildcats had plenty of opportunities to knock off UCLA on Saturday night and remain squarely in the hunt for the Pac-12 South division title.

Unfortunately for UA, there were far too many mistakes on both sides of the ball. Despite a valiant comeback attempt in the second half, the Cats just didn't have enough to overcome an early 14-3 deficit.

Here are my main takeaways from the 31-26 loss.

  • Arizona did not do the things it has done pretty well all season long -- ball control, taking advantage in the red zone, and tackling in open space.

    Ka'Deem Carey's fumble at the goal line was a back breaker. For a guy who has done a tremendous job of not putting the ball on the ground the last two seasons, Carey had no reason to try and leap into the end zone, especially on first down.

    It was a valiant effort from the star tailback, but he has to protect the football in that situation.

  • Hindsight is 20-20, but Rich Rodriguez electing to go for it on fourth down in the first quarter instead of taking the three points would prove to be costly.

    Play calling has been solid all season, but that was somewhat of a head scratcher with it still being so early in the game and UA playing at home.

    Tackling was a serious issue for the defense. On Myles Jack's 66-yard touchdown run, he trotted right through about five would-be tacklers. Brett Hundley got away from pressure all night long and the ‘Cats were seldom able to get him down at the first point of contact.

    The defense as a whole is leaps and bounds better than it was this time last year, but there's still a long way to go if Arizona hopes to take that next step as a program.

  • For a unit that has really struggled this year, Nate Phillips is emerging as one of the top young receivers in the conference. He hauled in eight passes for 97 yards and two touchdowns, which marks the fifth game in a row that he's reached the end zone.

  • Drew Riggleman was named the Special Teams Player of the Week by the coaching staff and it was absolutely warranted. Riggleman, who's really kicked well over the last month, did a nice job of getting plenty of hang time underneath his punts.

    UCLA never had great field position to start any of its drives and that was largely because of Riggleman's efforts.

  • Finally, the Wildcats deserve a lot of praise for the way they fought back in the second half.

    Even with Ka'Deem's fumble and a couple of costly penalties, UA never quit. That hasn't always been the case with past UA teams. It's a testament to the coaching staff for having the guys give everything they've got on the field regardless of the score.

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