Arizona doesn't show up in Holiday beat down
Arizona's Foles and Grigsby
Wildcats learn the hard way they haven't arrived yet in 33-0 Holiday Bowl drubbing.
SAN DIEGO – Arizona did the impossible. They made Nebraska’s offense look like a juggernaut.
A unit that scored an average of 17.7 points against BCS opponents had 17. With 11:57 left to play in the second quarter.
Giving that kind of lead to defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and the Blackshirts, the Wildcats had no hope. The Holiday Bowl, best known for shootouts and last-second drama, instead looked like the grand old days at Memorial Stadium.
Nebraska rushed for 228 yards, turned in its first ever bowl shutout, the first in the 32-year history of the Holiday, and imposed its will in a 33-0 romp Wednesday night.
Coach Mark Stoops couldn’t remember a thrashing that bad, having blocked out those first few dismal seasons in Tucson. Safety Cam Nelson compared it to a 2006 loss at LSU, a 45-3 demolition.
“I’m disappointed with our overall performance - offense, defense, special teams,” Stoops said. “We were never engaged in the game in any way. Nothing was right all night.”
After appearing to turn the corner with a heart-breaking loss to Oregon and an upset win at USC in the season finale, the Wildcats ran squarely into a brick wall.
The offense didn’t top 100 net yards until the final possession of the night, which saw its only hope of putting any points on the board end with Nick Foles’ incomplete pass on fourth down on the Nebraska 8.
“They deserved a shutout. We weren’t good enough to get the ball into the endzone,” Stoops said.
Arizona finished with just 109 yards, with Foles a dismal 6 of 20 for 28 yards and an interception.
“We couldn’t have played much worse,” Foles said.
If there was any consolation for the Cats, they held Suh, Nebraska’s leading tackler this season, to two solo stops and one for loss.
Nelson, one of those around for the lean years, had an idea something was wrong when teammates were jawing with Nebraska players leading up to the game.
“I don’t know if they were excited by a bigger bowl or what, but they got caught up in talking,” he said.
Combined with rewards for the program’s most successful season in a decade, it became a recipe for disaster.
“Throughout the week, Coach Stoops tried to be nice and let guys have a little bit of freedom. I think a lot of guys look advantage of it and it caused us to come out and play the way we did,” Nelson said.
“When you think you’ve arrived, that’s when you are going to get whacked. You can’t ever forget how you got here,” Stoops added.
“The game’s over before it starts. That’s where we lost the game”
Nebraska certainly showed no letdown after coming within one second of upsetting Texas in the Big 12 championship and earning a Fiesta Bowl berth. They wanted it more, as evidenced by the last redzone stand with fans, players and sideline going as wild as they had one month earlier at Cowboys Stadium.
Suh believes this victory will be a turning point in getting the Huskers back to contending for national titles, the kind of lofty goal Arizona can’t even imagine yet.
“I believe we can beat anybody in the Unites States,” Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said. “That’s how far we’ve come.”
In the last two postseasons, Holiday Bowl winners Oregon and Texas vaulted into the BCS the following year.
But there is also a risk of going in the other direction. Texas A&M and Arizona State endured notable San Diego letdowns that carried over into the next year.
This loss was brutal, but the Cats have nine months to make sure it was a one-time event.
The freedom players abused will be a distant memory during workouts and spring ball and two-a-days when Stoops tries to make his team hungry again.
“I don’t know if we were content to be here, but we certainly didn’t show up,” he said.
Arizona will pay as Stoops tries to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
Dan Greenspan blogs about the Pac-10 for CollegeFootballNews.com. Follow him on Twitter at @dangreenspan or email your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org.