Arizona football: 2019 opener looks a lot like 2018
After nine months of talking, the Arizona Wildcats' 2019 football season began the same way 2018 ended -- coming up just short in the final seconds.
Last season, it was a 47-yard field goal that went wide in a 41-40 loss to Arizona State and prevented the Wildcats from reaching bowl eligibility.
On Saturday night, it was two Hawaii Warriors defenders converging to take down scrambling quarterback Khalil Tate at the 1-yard line with no time left as the Cats lost 45-38 in Honolulu ... and, who knows, maybe keeping them from bowl eligibility.
Tate was almost Ortege Jenkins, taking off on a do-or-die run on the final play of the game. Almost.
While Jenkins lives on in Arizona lore with the Leap by the Lake, flipping over three defenders into the end zone to win at Washington in 1998, Tate's hero shot come up just short on a mad dash from the Hawaii 31-yard line when he was tackled by two Warriors, including one with the name of Manly Williams.
"I felt it was the right decision to take off and run," Tate said in a postgame video posted by Michael Lev of the Arizona Daily Star. "I just came up a little short."
It was that kind of maddening game for Arizona. Kevin Sumlin, just five days earlier, talked about how the offseason was all about developing consistency.
And then the Wildcats come out and fail to get a first down on their first three possessions, fell behind by 14 points on three separate occasions, drew an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for high-fiving fans in the end zone after a touchdown, threw an interception at the goal line in the fourth quarter, draw a delay of game and two false start penalties while trying to kick a field goal ... and lose while taking the ball away six times.
More: Arizona gave up a fourth-down conversion that led to a TD in the first half and didn't force a punt until the final minute.
"We didn't capitalize on every turnover they gave us," Sumlin told 1290-AM. "And we did some things -- penalties, a couple of close calls -- that put us behind the chains offensively. We gave up explosive plays defensively that made it hard to get over the hump.
"We were inconsistent in all three phases tonight. We did some great things and we did some awful things, on offense, defense and special teams. The result is losing on the road when we don't have a consistent performance across the board."
Hawaii threw for 436 yards in its pass-quick offense. Arizona tried to rush three and drop eight into zone coverage. Didn't work. The Cats were slow to adjust out of that, but man-to-man coverage didn't work either, without a good jam at the line of scrimmage. The pass rush remained theoretical. It's not as if Hawaii did anything unexpected.
And now Arizona has to ponder this gut-punch for two weeks before playing NAU, which, assuming a win, would prove nothing. The Wildcats' season was predicated on a fast start -- 4-1 or even 5-0 -- so Arizona now faces the prospect of needing to run the table against Texas Tech, UCLA and at Colorado before the schedule really gets real (Washington, at USC, at Stanford).
The Wildcats gave up 595 yards and 45 points to Hawaii, which could have scored, say, 66 without its turnovers -- some of which were good plays by Arizona, some of which were just bad plays by Hawaii.
Arizona is now 2-5 under Sumlin in games decided by one score or less.
There was another fine line between winning and losing Saturday night, and Arizona did not cross into the light. With one more yard and a two-point conversion -- or an overtime victory -- and that would have been one of the more amazing wins in school history.
As it is, one game in, and 2019 is already looking like a long season.