In some capacity, I've been around Arizona football for 10 seasons, and without a doubt, Saturday's 38-3 debacle at Oregon State was the worst Wildcat performance I've witnessed.
Like you, I've seen Arizona football teams routed by superior competition, as was the case regularly in 1991. I've seen Arizona football teams blunder in key circumstances. I've seen Arizona football teams blow big leads in critical games.
But since I've been watching the Wildcats, I can't recall a time when it looked like they just gave up.
Until Saturday night.
By now, it's obvious that Arizona is so decimated on defense that it will struggle to stop anyone for the remainder of the season. That, in itself, is unfortunate, but an acceptable fate. Ultimately, that's the way the cookie crumbles.
But Arizona's injuries on defense have nothing to do with the offense committing a rash of dumb penalties, or turning the ball over on a repeated basis. And it has nothing to do with the seemingly countless special teams errors in Saturday's loss to a marginal football team.
Saying that a team appeared to give up, that it abandoned the cause, is making the statement too simple. And it makes it sound as though the players on the field had no vested interested in the embarrassment for which they were a major part. Sometimes poor performance is simply a lack of answers. Arizona might have been at a loss for solutions while Oregon State controlled the game, taking advantage of countless Wildcat miscues.
If winning is contagious, so is losing, and right now the Wildcats should be quarantined.
There is no whitewashing here. It was a truly pathetic performance.
OK, so now the upside.
It's obvious that for the time being, the John Mackovic honeymoon is over. If one uses the Wildcat football postgame show on KNST as a barometer (and having talk show experience, I can tell you that's a mistake), there seems to be a cry for other coaching options already. Some callers were suggesting Ricky Hunley, while others longed for the days of fighting hard that defined the Dick Tomey era.
There was one caller who suggested that Mackovic is the kind of coach who plays well when things are going well, and can't seem to rally the troops when playing from behind. An interesting statement. Let's say it has some validity, just for the sake of argument.
If that's the case then Mackovic just needs better talent. And you know what, better talent is on the way. One need not look further than the quarterback position. When Ryan O'Hara walks onto campus next season, he will be the highest-profile quarterback in the history of the school. Truth of the matter is, Tomey would not have landed O'Hara. Nor Hunley.
If the Mackovic track record indicates anything, it's that he can lure some serious talent into his programs. O'Hara is the prize right now, but a couple major prospects are chomping at the bit at the critical defensive end position as well.
All of this simply means that as bad as Saturday was, and Saturday was bad, it might be the nadir for Arizona football.
I think it's safe to say this is going to be a long and trying season. And I think it's safe to say far more competitive campaigns are on the horizon.
If Mackovic manages to get UA football to the promised land with the talent he will most certainly draw, will you still remember how poorly his team played at Corvallis in mid-October?