SAN ANTONIO - Arizona lost its fifth straight game Wednesday night and, in the process, gained something far worse than any defeat: a reputation.
For the second consecutive year, the UA was outmatched by a Big 12 Conference team in a bowl game that could have vaulted the Wildcats to the next level. And for the second straight year, it wasn't close.
Oklahoma State scored two touchdowns in the first 6 minutes 14 seconds and never looked back, stomping the UA 36-10 in an Alamo Bowl that - oddly - seemed worse than the 26-point margin. Arizona (7-6) outgained OSU by 58 yards but was never really in the game.
Coach Mike Stoops said Wednesday the loss will force him to "re-evaluate all aspects of our program."
"Obviously, we're not there yet. There's still a lot of room for improvement in a lot of different areas - coaching philosophy, personnel. That's the most important part," he said.
"It's disappointing we didn't play better in back-to-back bowl games, but we lost to two very, very good football teams," he said. "There are no excuses. We know we're better than we've played here of late. For whatever reason, we didn't play very strong."
Just like last year's Holiday Bowl loss to Nebraska, Arizona's struggles began in the beginning.
The defense stopped OSU on its first drive, but Bug Wright - making his return from a two-game suspension - muffed the ensuing punt, and the Cowboys recovered on the UA's 26. Five plays later, Jeremy Smith gave OSU a 7-0 lead with a 6-yard run.
Arizona moved into OSU territory on its next drive, but turned the ball over when wideout Juron Criner dropped a perfectly-thrown ball from Nick Foles on fourth-and-five.
Oklahoma State (11-2) struck again, and quickly - Brandon Weeden found Justin Blackmon for a 71-yard touchdown on OSU's next play, making it 14-0. Blackmon, who caught nine passes for 117 yards and two scores, was named the game's offensive MVP.
Foles connected with Criner for Arizona's only touchdown, but both struggled against an Oklahoma State defense that was - depending on which team you were rooting for - either aggressive or reckless.
A helmet-to-helmet hit by safety Markelle Martin knocked UA running back Keola Antolin out of the game in the first half. Antolin's backup, Nicolas Grigsby, was jolted out of bounds as he attempted to catch a pass on Arizona's first drive of the second half. Referees ruled that the pass was uncatchable, and picked up their flags.
Martin, who returned a Foles interception for a touchdown in the first half, was named the game's defensive MVP. He said the penalties were incidental.
"When you're trying to be a physical defense, those kind of combat penalties basically just happen," Martin said. "You just have to brush it off and just play."
Foles completed 32 of 50 passes for 280 yards and a score, but was intercepted three times. Criner finished with nine catches for just 47 yards.
UA receiver David Douglas won the sportsmanship award, given to the losing team's best player. He was stellar on a night when others struggled, catching six passes for a team-high 91 yards.
"I didn't play near as well as I wanted to and the outcome wasn't what we wanted," Foles said. "Like Coach said, the mistakes were too much to overcome. That's on me, and that's on everyone on the team."
Foles was right. Every time the Wildcats made plays, mistakes doomed them.
The Wildcats' quarterback was intercepted at the OSU 2 while trying to hit a covered receiver in the end zone, and wideout Travis Cobb was called for offensive pass interference as he made a leaping catch inside the Cowboys' 5.
Foles found Richard Morrison for a 54-yard score with 4 minutes remaining in the blowout, but the play was called back because of a Conan Amituanai hold.
Wednesday's game marked an ugly end to what was once a promising season. Arizona was ranked No. 9 nationally after starting the season 4-0, but tumbled as its schedule got harder. USC and Stanford outmuscled the Wildcats, and Oregon obliterated them with the "Blur" offense. Arizona State won the Territorial Cup when Alex Zendejas was unable to convert on a PAT at the end of regulation and in the second overtime. The Wildcats will play next season in the expanded Pac-12 Conference, which figures to be even tougher.
On Wednesday, there were no explanations- just another awful start and a growing notoriety.
"We'll try to do a better job next year," Stoops said.