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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Frequent miscues ruin ‘Cats

    The Arizona football team was locked, loaded and ready to fire with a gun-slinging brand of offense, but instead it repeatedly shot itself in the foot.

    With so much attention focused on whether or not the offense could put on a repeat performance from the 490-yard exposǸ they displayed in last weekend’s 45-24 victory over NAU, the Wildcats may have forgotten to concentrate on the minor details.

    Though the Arizona offense proved once again it could be effective – putting up 484 points of total offense (446 passing) – a seemingly endless stream of penalties, turnovers and mental errors plagued the Wildcats.

    “”It was a weird game,”” said offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes. “”We just didn’t get any breaks. I’ve never seen a game where the ball never bounced our way once, and I think sometimes in college football when you don’t catch any breaks it’s hard to win.””

    Though Arizona (1-2) lost by only two points, missed opportunities inside the red zone told the whole story.

    Arizona turned the ball over three times, including two lost fumbles inside the New Mexico 25-yard line, negating any chance to put points on the board.

    “”Too many turnovers caused us to lose the game, and we can’t let that happen,”” said cornerback Antoine Cason. “”It only gets harder from here on out. We can’t lose the turnover battle.””

    New Mexico was more than happy to capitalize on the Wildcats’ mistakes. Every time Arizona was seemingly making a move to the end zone, a mishap would hand not only the ball to the Lobos, but maybe more importantly, the momentum.

    After both of Arizona’s fumbles, New Mexico turned its mistake into points, using 46-yard and 19-yard drives that would both result in field goals.

    “”Obviously, the turnovers make the difference in the game,”” said New Mexico head coach Rocky Long. “”We kept them out of the end zone because of fumble recoveries. … We also kept them in the game by not returning the fumble recoveries for touchdowns.

    “”What we had to do was stay on our feet and they would have been touchdowns, which could have put the game away a lot earlier.””

    Though turnovers seemed to be the game-buster for the Wildcats, it turned out to be the least of their worries. Mental mistakes and execution errors haunted Arizona throughout the game, giving the Lobos new opportunities while squandering theirs.

    The Wildcats committed nine penalties – many at critical times – pushing them back a total of 96 yards. Though New Mexico also committed nine penalties, which pushed them back a total of 90 yards, none seemed to come at the back-breaking times that Arizona’s did.

    Among the Arizona penalties were two roughing-the-passer infractions, two offsides penalties that gave New Mexico first downs, a running-into-the-punter call, and an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty from the coaching staff on the sideline during a timeout.

    One Arizona penalty literally turned into points for New Mexico.

    With the Wildcats in the shadow of their own goalposts, quarterback Willie Tuitama dropped back for a pass into the end zone. When nearly getting sacked, Tuitama threw the ball away, resulting in an intentional grounding penalty in the end zone, which translated into a safety and two points for the Lobos.

    Though it is a common theme among the Arizona players that it is time to look forward to the Pacific 10 Conference schedule when they face No. 6 California next week, the lack of performance and mental concentration is something that must be tightened.

    An abundance of penalties and mental mistakes will not bode well when they face an opponent from the top of the Pac-10.

    With the loss, the Wildcats have fallen to both Mountain West Conference opponents they have faced this season.

    “”(Turnovers) and mistakes were really frustrating in the game,”” said receiver Mike Thomas. “”They hurt us. They killed us. With this loss, you have to let it go at some point. After watching the film, you take what you can from it, and then you have to move on.””

    – Lance Madden contributed to this story

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