Fourteenth ranked Oklahoma St. handed Arizona their second consecutive blowout bowl loss, a 36-10 thumping in the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio, the first bowl action of the season involving the Pac-10.
The Cowboys are a good team, but Arizona self destructed. Bug Wright bobbled a punt, and Oklahoma St. converted a short field into the game's first touchdown.
Juron Criner, the best receiver in the Pac-10, had 9 catches, and Arizona's only touchdown, in the first quarter, but dropped a pass for what would have been a first down, and then the Wildcat defense turned Biletnikoff award winning wide receiver Justin Blackmon loose, producing an uncontested 71 yard touchdown. Then, what should have been a stroll in score off an interception was dropped by the ‘Cats, and it allowed a Cowboy field goal.
And Arizona had effectively spotted Oklahoma St. 24 points in the first quarter.It got worse, as ‘Cats quarterback Nick Foles threw an interception early in the second quarter, and the Cowboy's Markelle Martin didn't drop it, taking it 62 yards for another score.
Criner dropped another pass on a seam route, and that possession subsequently ended in no points when Foles threw another interception to Johnny Thomas at the Oklahoma St. 2 yard line.
Alex Zendejas, who missed field goals twice to lose the Territorial Cup, drove a 47 yard field goal that had the length to be good from 55 yards out, but pushed it wide right. There's no wind in the Alamodome to account for the miss.
A catch by Criner was incorrectly ruled incomplete, but Foles' pass was unnecessarily low, allowing for the mistake by review. Two missed passes, followed by an offensive pass interference call on Travis Cobb, and clock mismanagement that allowed the final 4 seconds to run off without Arizona using an available time out all contributed to no points on the ‘Cats' last possession of the first half left the score 23-7 Oklahoma St., but it could and should have been worse.
Arizona's mistakes were easily worth a 40 point swing, negating a number of statistical advantages. The ‘Cats had almost a 2 to 1 time of possession advantage (19:23 to 10:37), and outgained the Cowboys by 41 yards in the first half, holding the edge both on the ground (35-12) and in the air (174-156).
It only got worse in the second half. After Oklahoma St. had gone up 30-10, Foles, who had thrown only 7 picks all season, fired another interception. The Cowboys felt confident enough to gamble on fourth down near mid field, and the ‘Cats actually made the stop. However, a facemask penalty on Derek Earles kept the drive alive.
Another Conference USA crew replay mistake took a touchdown away from Oklahoma St., but the Lou Groza award winning kicker Dan Bailey blasted a 50 yard field goal for a 33-10 lead with 3:20 left in the third quarter.
Another drive stalled early in the fourth quarter, and another Zendejas field goal was plenty long enough, but from only 34 yards out, was pushed wide right again.
Bailey on the other hand, wound up 3 for 3 on his field goals attempts for Oklahoma St.
Even when Foles found Richard Morrison alone well behind the Oklahoma St. secondary for a touchdown, a holding penalty wiped it out.
Blackmon finished with 132 yards, and 2 touchdowns, on 9 catches.
The problem was compounded by the fact that Keola Antolin got his clock cleaned on a first quarter swing pass, and probably a concussion. As a result, Antolin only contributed only 1 yard to the Arizona rushing total.
Despite holding onto the ball for more than 15 minutes more than the Cowboys, and out rushing and outpassing Oklahoma St., Arizona was never in the game, despite their defense allowing only 313 total yards. But with four turnovers, plus turning the ball over on downs once, and the missed field goals, nothing else mattered.
It was the third straight bowl game for only the second time in Arizona school history, but coupled with their 33-0 loss last year to Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl, this loss, at the end of a 5 game losing streak that dates back to before Halloween, and includes a 25 point loss at Stanford, and a 19 point defeat at Oregon, made it clear that Coach Mike Stoops needs an upgrade in personnel in order for Arizona to move up any further in the college football world.
Oklahoma St. had never won more than 10 games in a year, and this 11 win team, like the Cornhuskers last year, were clearly too much for Arizona to handle. Both the Big XII bowl opponents Arizona has faced probably should have been in BCS bowls, and of course the Cardinal and Ducks are, so those are some pretty solid teams. But they represent the next level for Arizona.
Nebraska and Stanford simply man-handled the ‘Cats, while Oklahoma St., like Oregon, had far too much team speed for them to keep up.
Arizona gets another dose of Oklahoma St. next season, in the second game of the season, when the ‘Cats travel to Stillwater. With 4 starting offensive linemen needing to be replaced, plus Grigsby, and also Brooks and Elmore, among 5 senior starters on the defensive side, that personnel upgrade will need to come quickly.