Walking into the Rose Bowl, it was tough to gauge exactly how many fans would be in attendance on a night No. 18-ranked USC was hosting No. 2 Oregon about 14 miles away down the Harbor Freeway.
But a typically apathetic crowd showed up Saturday and so did No. 25 UCLA in a 66-10 thrashing over No. 24 Arizona. The same cannot be said for the Wildcats.
A season-high 81,673 spectators - the largest crowd since a December 2008 meeting between the cross-town rival Bruins and Trojans - was just the start of several inexplicable events. What was projected to be a shootout turned lopsided in a hurry.
The Wildcats couldn’t play defense, run the offense, punt or field returns. Unlike the team’s previous three losses, there were no signs of life in any aspect and nothing would go right.
When players Jake Fischer and Kyle Quinn and head coach Rich Rodriguez said afterward that the result does not define their season, that’s correct - but only for now. A resilient club all year, UA must now regroup and face its biggest challenge of the season with three games to play and the team still one win away from bowl eligibility.
Forget that lowly Colorado is on the schedule up next. The status of quarterback Matt Scott is in question, at best, and the team was fortunate enough to learn that linebacker Hank Hobson traveled back to Tucson after spending the night in a Los Angeles-area hospital.
Scott received a third hit to the helmet in two weeks, crumpling to the ground in the Arizona end zone after taking an apparent knee to the dome. Rodriguez said Scott was dizzy but did not offer much else, and the word concussion will likely enter the minds of many for another week until an official word is released.
Unlike the previous week, Scott did not pop right back to his feet. Any questions about what the depth at quarterback looks like behind Scott were answered, as backup B.J. Denker was sacked three times in his brief appearance. Rodriguez eventually turned to receiver Richard Morrison at quarterback before the night was done.
As for the defense, the other shoe finally dropped.
Statistically, it’s a wonder how the Wildcats have been able to come up with timely, opportunistic plays in a handful of victories. Brett Hundley and Johnathan Franklin made sure that was not going to happen to UCLA.
Hobson’s neck injury only adds to the growing depth issues. Like Rodriguez said less than a month ago, the Wildcats could use more than one bye week.
In a way, the game also was an aberration. An otherwise competitive team ran into a buzzsaw that could not and would not be slowed down.
Instead of forgetting the game, the staff may want to burn the film. Whether the bad memories of the game remain burned in their players’ minds and breaks their spirit remains to be seen.
How many more lives - and bodies - do these ‘Cats have?