PASADENA, Calif. - Buses carrying the Arizona Wildcats and their traveling party slipped out of the Rose Bowl parking lot shortly after midnight Saturday, headed for the nearest airport.
They traveled in silence, hoping to get out of town unnoticed.
Fat chance: UCLA pounded the Wildcats 66-10 on a hellish Saturday night, ending Arizona's slim hopes of a Pac-12 South title. The Bruins led for all but 2 minutes 33 seconds; the Wildcats (5-4, 2-4 Pac-12) were seemingly doomed from the start.
"It starts with me as a head coach. I thought we were ready to play, but we weren't," Rich Rodriguez said late Saturday. "Even in our other losses, I thought we were competitive and doing some things. Today, we didn't do anything well at all, our performance was embarrassing."
And Saturday's loss, like most of Los Angeles' most scandalous moments, was caught on film. Expect Arizona's final three opponents - the Wildcats host Colorado this week, then finish with games against Utah and Arizona State - to follow the blueprint set by UCLA.
Step 1: Establish the run early. UCLA coach Jim Mora succeeded where Lane Kiffin and Steve Sarkisian failed, and it was easy to see why. The Bruins ran the ball early, exposing Arizona's lack of size on defense and forcing the Wildcats to tackle in the open field. They couldn't.
UCLA ran 17 times for 124 yards on its first three possessions, all of which ended with touchdowns.
It wasn't just star Johnathan Franklin who toted the rock; backups Jordon James and Damien Thigpen and quarterback Brett Hundley all got involved. UCLA finished with 308 rushing yards on 63 carries, the most by any UA opponent all year. Franklin finished with 162 yards, more - by himself - than Arizona allowed to Washington or USC. Six of the Bruins' nine touchdowns came on the ground.
"We came in against a really good UCLA team, and we didn't bring it from the get-go," UA linebacker Jake Fischer said. "This is what happens in the Pac-12 when you don't come to play. I'm not saying we didn't come to play; we just made a ton of mistakes."
Step 2: Blitz Matt Scott, and force three-and-outs. The best way to stop Arizona is to keep the UA offense off the field, and the Bruins were masters of it Saturday.
Arizona went three-and-out on its first two possessions, and managed just two first downs in the first quarter. By the time the Wildcats managed their first score, they were trailing 28-3.
Scott was sacked once and hurried a half-dozen times.
The Bruins' pressure on a pass play resulted in an apparent head injury for the Wildcats' quarterback. Backup B.J. Denker took over in the third quarter, and was sacked three times in a little more than one quarter.
Center Kyle Quinn said it wasn't one thing that stalled the offense. The team finished with a season-low 257 yards of offense.
"It's little things," he said. "When they all add up, things don't go your way."
Step 3: Force the Wildcats to play ugly. Arizona beat USC and Washington- and, really, Oklahoma State - by winning the turnover battle, staying penalty-free and by forcing their opponents to make mistakes.
On Saturday, the Wildcats showed just how bad they can be when they're undisciplined.
The team was penalized 15 times for 124 yards, and was minus-3 on turnovers. It was a recipe for disaster, and embarrassment.
"We need to represent our school, our town, our coaching staff and each other better than we did (Saturday)," Quinn said. "We're a lot stronger than a lot of people on the outside might think. We're a resilient team; we've proven that. We're going to bounce back. We're going to fight."
On StarNet: Follow the Cats as they try to qualify for a bowl at: azstarnet.com/finley
• Who: Colorado (1-8, 1-5) at Arizona (5-4, 2-4)
• When: 11:30 a.m., Saturday
• TV: FX
• Radio: 1290-AM, 107.5-FM
Defense falling fast
Arizona's defense ranks among the nation's worst following Saturday's loss to UCLA. Here's where the Wildcats rank, out of 120 FBS programs:
• 87th in rushing defense (183.11 yards per game)
• 117th in passing defense (314.89 yards per game)
• 118th in total defense (498 yards per game)
• 105th in scoring defense (35 points per game)
Hobson back home after night in LA hospital
Arizona Wildcats linebacker Hank Hobson is back in Tucson after being released from a Los Angeles hospital Sunday morning.
Whether he'll play Saturday against Colorado, however, remains very much up in the air.
Hobson suffered a neck injury while chasing a play with 12:55 left in the fourth quarter of Saturday's 66-10 loss at UCLA. He was strapped to a stretcher and taken to a hospital. Following the game, coach Rich Rodriguez said that Hobson had feeling in both his arms and legs.
Sporting a neck brace, Hobson flew home Sunday afternoon. He and a UA staffer arrived around 2 p.m.
Hobson was one of three Wildcats hurt in Saturday's loss. Quarterback Matt Scott went down in the third quarter with an apparent head injury, and did not return. Guard Chris Putton was also removed from the game for precautionary reasons.
- Ryan Finley