On a day when many UA football legends were welcomed back to the UA campus for the school's 90th homecoming celebration on Halloween weekend, it was the ghosts of Wildcat football's current season that reappeared to all but assure the Wildcats' seventh consecutive loss.
Missed field goals, fumbles and dropped passes led to the Wildcats' demise this time in a 28-14 loss to Oregon State Saturday at Arizona Stadium, Arizona's seventh straight overall and seventh consecutive in Pac-10 play, dating back to last season.
"Two critical plays in the game early put us behind the eight-ball again," UA head coach Mike Stoops said. "We continually beat ourselves in a lot of areas. Fundamental mistakes, whether they be penalties, delay of games, dropped balls or turnovers, really prohibit us from winning. At times we seem to be our own worst enemy."
The Wildcats recovered a fumble early in the first quarter and looked poised to score first, but a missed 33-yard field goal by sophomore kicker Nick Folk axed that idea quickly.
"It's frustrating getting down there and not being able to score," said UA senior tight end Steve Fleming. "We knew that type of opportunity would come and we came up short."
Oregon State would score the first of its four touchdowns 3:18 later on a Derek Anderson 2-yard touchdown pass to Joe Newton, after Arizona's Pat Howard was flagged for pass interference in the end zone a play earlier.
The Beavers took a 14-0 lead less than 2 1-2 minutes later when running back Ryan Cole punched it in for a 2-yard touchdown score.
Beaver senior quarterback Derek Anderson threw for 249 yards and 2 touchdowns in the win, outdueling UA redshirt freshman Richard Kovalcheck, who managed 235 yards through the air on 19 of 38 passing in his second career start.
Kovalcheck tossed one touchdown but was intercepted twice on the day.
With Oregon State (4-4, 3-2 Pacific 10 Conference) leading 21-0 near the end of the third quarter, Kovalcheck connected with wideout Biren Ealy for a 27-yard scoring strike, giving Arizona (1-7, 0-5) its first offensive pulse in weeks.
"I was really disappointed in the first half with the way our receivers played," Stoops said, noting the multiple dropped passes by Arizona's wideout corps. "A quarterback is only as good as his supporting cast."
The touchdown ended Arizona's 103-minute scoring drought, dating back to the Wildcats' 28-14 road loss to Oregon two weeks prior and spanning the equivalent of nearly seven quarters of play.
"I was pleased with a lot of our play throughout," Stoops said. "Especially our play in the second half, I thought we looked like a football team – a complete football team."
Ealy, who led the Wildcats in both receptions and yards last season, had been slowed most of the season, first by injuries and then by legal troubles. He finished the day with four catches for 102 yards and the touchdown.
"To come back in the second half and see Biren step up was pleasing to me," Stoops said. "He really helped and played with a lot of toughness. He's had a tough year. He got off to a bad start with his injury, then got into our doghouse a little bit, but has fought his way back and hopefully he learned something through that experience and he's going to step up and be an accountable player."
Trailing 21-7, Arizona stopped Oregon State on its next drive, only to see cornerback Wilrey Fontenot drop the ball on an attempted punt return, with the Beavers recovering deep in UA territory.
On the fourth play of Oregon State's subsequent drive, Anderson kept it himself, scrambling right before diving for the pylon to put the Beavers up 28-7.
Arizona tailback Mike Bell cut the deficit to two touchdowns again with a one-yard run with 9:18 to play, capping a 12-play, 62-yard drive. Bell's touchdown was just his second of the season, and first since the Wildcats' season-opening victory over NAU.
Anderson threw for 202 first-half yards, continuing the beating the Wildcats have taken from Pac-10 passers this season.
"He's one of the top quarterbacks in the Pac-10. We always knew he could throw it and we knew we were going to get tested deep," said UA junior safety Darrell Brooks. "In their offense they didn't do one thing that we weren't prepared for. It just comes down to some of the execution."
"It gets frustrating because you see everybody else out there throwing the ball," Stoops said.
"We've got a lot to play for next week to not finish last," Stoops said of Arizona's matchup with Washington next weekend in Seattle.
The Huskies fell 31-6 to Oregon Saturday, equaling Arizona's mark of 1-7 overall while falling to 0-5 in conference play.