LOS ANGELES - Arizona's 2011 season isn't a nightmare, at least not yet.
Too many good things are happening. The Wildcats are scoring points, racking up yards and putting butts in seats, and, plus, it's been a month since somebody suffered a major knee injury.
No, this season isn't a nightmare. It's just … weird. Think Lady Gaga in a meat dress.
It's as if UA (1-4, 0-3 Pac-12) is playing in the Arena League or, worse, the CFL. The Wildcats scored six touchdowns Saturday against USC and lost 48-41. They put up 31 points against Oregon a week ago, and lost by 25.
"We're all disappointed. Nobody wants to start off like that," safety Robert Golden said. "There's still a season that we've got to play. We've got to go out and get the job done."
Regardless of what happens the rest of the way, 2011 will go down as the Arizona Wildcats' Best Worst Year Ever. Those with a sense of a UA history are surely laughing, through their tears, at what's become of this program. After going 30 years without NFL-caliber quarterback, Arizona has Nick Foles - a certain pick in this spring's draft - and a capable wide receiver in Juron Criner.
After decades with an "up-the-middle, up-the-middle, up-the-middle, punt" approach to offense, the Wildcats are fun to watch, and flashy.
But after boasting one of the West's best defenses year in and year out, Arizona can't stop a stiff breeze.
"We're all a team," freshman tailback Ka'Deem Carey said. "If they mess up, we mess up."
Consider that on Saturday:
• Foles threw for a season-high 425 yards and four touchdowns, statistics that - in past years - would have been front-page news. Only with Foles, the numbers weren't that much better than the ones he posted against Northern Arizona (412) and both Oregon and Oklahoma State (398). Through five games, the Wildcats have scored 137 points. Mike Stoops' first team, in 2004, scored 164 all season.
"You saw what our offense can do," Stoops said. "Our issues right now are on defense."
• USC racked 582 yards of total offense against an overmatched Wildcats defense. Most years, the Trojans' dominance would lead to late-night gassers or, maybe, a few demotions. This year, it's par for the course: Oklahoma State gained 594 yards and Stanford put up 567, while Oregon - oddly - amassed just 516. Arizona's last four opponents have combined to outscore it 178-96.
• Trojans quarterback Matt Barkley set a USC record with 468 passing yards, which would have been really something if he wasn't merely the latest in a line of players to pad their stats against the UA. Stanford tailback Stepfan Taylor rushed for a career-high 153 yards against the Wildcats on Sept. 17; the next week, Oregon's LaMichael James set a personal and program record with 288 rushing yards.
Stoops said he isn't expecting a dominant defense, just one that "periodically would give us a chance."
The Wildcats flew home to Tucson on Saturday evening hoping that things will eventually get better.
At this point, it can't get any worse.
Even if it's been a great, horrible year.
"After the game, you go to the defensive guys and the defense comes to you, and you ride together," Foles said. "You really are brothers at the end of the day, no matter what the record is.
"We worked our butts off together, and we're going to go stick together. We're going to make each other better. We've got to stay the path. It's tough now, but you have to work through the adversity and hope you get better."
The good and the bad
For the Arizona Wildcats, 2011 has been the best season ever …
• 3rd nationally in passing (384 yards per game)
• 13th in first downs (25.4 per game)
• 24th in total offense (459.60 yards per game)
• 25th in passing efficiency (155.98)
and the worst season ever.
• 110th nationally in passing defense (294 yards per game)
• 111th in rushing defense (209.6 yards per game)
• 115th in total defense (503.6 yards per game)
• 116th in pass efficiency defense (164.96)
• What: Arizona at Oregon State
• When: 12:30 p.m. Saturday
• TV: Fox College Sports
• Radio: 1290-AM, 107.5-FM
AP top 25
With first-place votes in parentheses, records through Oct. 1 and previous ranking.
1. LSU (40) 5-0 1
2. Alabama (12) 5-0 3
3. Oklahoma (7) 4-0 2
4. Wisconsin 5-0 7
5. Boise St. (1) 4-0 4
6. Oklahoma St. 4-0 5
7. Stanford 4-0 6
8. Clemson 5-0 13
9. Oregon 3-1 9
10. Arkansas 4-1 18
11. Texas 4-0 17
12. Michigan 5-0 19
13. Georgia Tech 5-0 21
14. Nebraska 4-1 8
15. Auburn 4-1 NR
16. West Virginia 4-1 22
17. Florida 4-1 12
18. South Carolina 4-1 10
19. Illinois 5-0 24
20. Kansas St. 4-0 NR
21. Virginia Tech 4-1 11
22. Arizona St. 4-1 25
23. Florida St. 2-2 23
24. Texas A&M 2-2 14
25. Baylor 3-1 15
Others receiving votes: Michigan St. 154, Houston 68, Washington 37, Texas Tech 25, Notre Dame 24, South Florida 22, Georgia 11, Penn St. 9, Southern Cal 7, SMU 5, Cincinnati 1, Pittsburgh 1, Tennessee 1.