Arizona Wildcats football losing streak extended to 14 games in loss to SDSU

Michael Lev
Arizona Daily Star

It couldn’t happen again, could it?

Things were supposed to be different for Arizona football under Jedd Fisch, who’s brought boundless energy, hope and positivity to the program since his arrival in late December.

Yet the product on the field looked discouragingly familiar Saturday night.

Arizona was thoroughly outclassed in its home opener, falling to San Diego State 38-14 in front of an announced crowd of 39,097 at Arizona Stadium.

The defeat extended the Wildcats’ losing streak to 14 games — the longest active FBS skid in the nation. The next opportunity to end it comes next Saturday against NAU.

The first half was a compilation of breakdowns, miscues and ineffectiveness not seen since, well, the last time Arizona played a home game. Nothing could match the nightmare that was the 2020 Territorial Cup — a 70-7 debacle against Arizona State that capped an 0-5 season and got Kevin Sumlin fired. But the first 30 minutes against SDSU were a decent approximation.

The Aztecs (2-0) grabbed a 21-0 lead less than eight minutes into the game. At that point, Arizona had been outscored 115-7 at home since holding a 13-0 advantage over Colorado in the penultimate game of last season.

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The pocket collapses around Arizona quarterback Gunner Cruz (9) as San Diego State defensive lineman Cameron Thomas (99) sacks him during the second quarter of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021, in Tucson, Ariz. (Kelly Presnell/Arizona Daily Star via AP)

Gunner Cruz’s 43-yard touchdown pass to Stanley Berryhill III later in the first quarter halted that run. But the celebration was short-lived. By the end of the first half, SDSU held a 35-7 edge. The Aztecs had 344 yards to the Wildcats’ 106.

Every unit bore some of the blame. The offense — which found a rhythm in the second half of a promising but ultimately unsuccessful season opener vs. BYU — couldn’t get anything going. The defense, which played mostly sound football in Week 1, yielded multiple chunk plays. The special teams surrendered a blocked punt, which the Aztecs returned for a touchdown.

At least the ZonaZoo was full at kickoff. Not so much in the second half, despite the promise of free Chick-fil-A sandwiches.

San Diego State quarterback Jordon Brookshire, who completed only 6 of 19 passes for 76 yards in SDSU’s opener vs. New Mexico State, went 9 of 11 for 183 yards and two touchdowns in the first half. He was barely asked to throw in the second (three attempts).

Tight end Daniel Bellinger had three catches for 113 yards and a touchdown, all in the first half. His 73-yard reception on SDSU’s second series set up a score. Tailback Greg Bell had 102 of his 125 rushing yards in the opening 30 minutes.

Cruz started and played into the third quarter. He passed for only 70 yards after amassing 336 in Week 1. His final attempt resulted in an interception.

Will Plummer entered late in the third period. On his first series, the Wildcats faced fourth-and-1. They were lined up to go for it, but tackle Edgar Burrola was flagged for a false start. It was that kind of night.

Plummer and Berryhill hooked up a 9-yard gain on third-and-7 in the fourth quarter — Arizona’s first third-down conversion of the game. The Wildcats had been 0 for 10 up to that point.

After a pair of penalties extended the drive, Plummer connected with Tayvian Cunningham for a 7-yard touchdown. It was the first TD pass of Plummer’s career.