SAN ANTONIO — Given some time and a dose of perspective, the Arizona Wildcats’ 2010 season may be viewed as a successful one.
But not today.
Oklahoma State scored two touchdowns in the first 6 minutes 14 seconds and never looked back, stomping the UA 36-10 in the Alamo Bowl. The Wildcats’ finish their season with five consecutive losses and — worse — a reputation.
For the second consecutive year, the UA (7-6) was outmatched by a Big 12 opponent. And for the second consecutive year, it wasn’t particularly close.
Arizona’s defense stopped Oklahoma State 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 Wildcats’ 26. Five plays later, Jeremy Smith gave OSU a 7-0 lead with a 6-yard touchdown run.
The Wildcats’ special teams responded, moving to OSU’s 36 on a Travis Cobb kickoff return, but Nick Foles bounced a first-down pass and Juron Criner dropped a perfectly-thrown ball on fourth-and-5 in Cowboys territory.
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.
Foles and Criner both struggled for most of the night against an Oklahoma State defense that was — depending on which team you were rooting for — was 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.
Arizona scored just one touchdown, a 5-yard pass from Foles to Juron Criner in the first quarter. Alex Zendejas hit a third-quarter field goal, but missed two others.
Even when the Wildcats made plays, they didn’t.
Foles 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.
Arizona appeared to stop Oklahoma State on fourth down halfway through the third quarter, but linebacker Derek Earls was called for a facemask penalty. A video review then overturned what appeared to be another OSU touchdown, but Bailey then hit a mammoth field goal.
Foles found Richard Morrison for a 54-yard score with 4 minutes remaining in the blowout, but it was called back because of a Conan Amituanai hold.
Arizona played short-handed for most of the game. Antolin’s injury left the Wildcats without a steady tailback, though Grigsby made the most of his opportunities.
Foles completed 31 of 49 passes for 280 yards and a score, but was intercepted three times. Criner finished with just nine catches for 47 yards.
Starting defensive tackle Justin Washington did not play in the first half because of an unspecified violation of team rules. He returned after the break, but was used sparingly.
Tonight'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 it schedule got harder. USC and Stanford outmuscled the Wildcats, and Oregon obliterated them with the ‘Blur’ offense. Arizona State won the Territorial Cup when Zendejas was unable to convert on a PAT at the end of regulation and in overtime.
Tonight, there was no scapegoat — just another awful start and a growing renown.