STANFORD, Calif. - Forget USC and ASU. Right now, it's about B-Y-E.
After playing six games in as many weeks, the UA has been blessedly given time to review, retool and recover. They must heal and focus.
Saturday's 54-48 overtime loss to No. 18 Stanford stung. The Wildcats led by 14 points halfway through the fourth quarter before the Cardinal drove and scored - twice - to force overtime. Arizona quarterback Matt Scott was intercepted on the Wildcats' first possession of the extra period; Stanford scored on its next possession, and won.
The loss marked the third defeat in a row for Arizona, which dropped to 3-3 overall and 0-3 in Pac-12 play. The Wildcats now have an open week to plan the second half of the 2012 season.
Expect them to:
1. Lick their wounds. Before they boarded the team bus Saturday night, a handful of Arizona players lamented the fact that they could have been 5-1 if not for two fourth-quarter plays. They're right: Sean Mannion's touchdown pass with just over 1 minute left lifted Oregon State to a Week 5 victory; Saturday's game was decided in overtime, when Stepfan Taylor rushed 21 yards for a score in overtime. With a 5-1 record, Arizona would likely have been ranked in the Top 25 - maybe in the top 15 - heading into the bye week.
Imagine how different things would look - and feel.
"We've won a close one or two, and we've lost a couple close ones," first-year coach Rich Rodriguez said.
"Unfortunately, the last two have been close losses that, had we made a play at the end, we would've won."
2. Get healthy. The Wildcats were "razor-thin from the get-go," Rodriguez said; things have gotten even worse over the last two weeks.
Safety Jared Tevis, center Kyle Quinn, defensive end Dominique Austin and guard Trace Biskin - all starters - stayed in Tucson over the weekend to rehabilitate injuries. A half-dozen more Wildcats went down against Stanford: Linebacker Jake Fischer was unable to raise his left arm above his head for most of the second half, and Marquis Flowers and Dan Buckner both had to leave for short periods of time because of injuries.
Fischer said the injuries were typical for a Pac-12 game, even though it felt like more. Fifty-eight different players saw action against the Cardinal.
"It wasn't that it was so physically tough - it's just that we have so many players beat up already," Fischer said.
"We don't have the depth that we would like."
The week off should allow the Wildcats to more closely resemble a full squad when they take on Washington.
"We gotta get healthy," Rodriguez said. "We needed an 'open' week about a month ago. I'd like to have four open weeks, as banged up as we are."
Though there's no timetable for any player's return, the week off will undoubtedly help.
"We'll take what we've got, see if we get a couple guys back and get better at the areas we need to get better at," he said.
3. Look ahead. If there's a bright side to Arizona's 3-3 start, it's this: Over their first six games, the Wildcats faced a No. 3-ranked team and three squads - Oklahoma State, Oregon State and Stanford - all ranked No. 18 nationally. They've traveled to Eugene, Ore., and Stanford, Calif., the two toughest road trips on their schedule, and returned with their pride intact.
Arizona will be defined by its final six games, five of which - home games against Washington, Colorado and Arizona State and road trips to face UCLA and Utah - seem, on the surface, winnable.
The Wildcats must find a way to keep Scott healthy - he emerged from Saturday's game unscathed despite throwing 69 passes - while tightening up a defense that ranks 111th nationally.
With a week's worth of rest, perhaps the Wildcats can rally
"I was expecting us to go undefeated, but that just might be my competitiveness," Scott said. "We're going to get through this bye, and try to win 'em all from here on out."
On StarNet: Follow the Wildcats through the second half of the season at: azstarnet.com/finley
• Who: Washington (3-2, 1-1) at Arizona (3-3, 0-3)
• When: Oct. 20, time TBA
• TV: TBA
• Radio: 1290-AM, 107.5-FM, 990-AM (Spanish)
Cats' Pac-12 rankings at Midseason
Midway through the 2012 regular season, the Arizona Wildcats rank:
• 1st in the Pac-12 in total offense (553.8 yards per game), passing offense (370.8 yards per game) and first downs (32.2 per game)
• 3rd in the Pac-12 in scoring offense (37 points per game) and rushing offense (183 yards per game)
• 9th in the Pac-12 in pass defense (allowing 297.8 yards per game)
• 11th in the Pac-12 in scoring defense (allowing 32.7 points per game)
• 12th in the Pac-12 in total defense (allowing 480.5 yards per game) and rushing defense (allowing 182.7 yards per game)