It was a bad day for Pac-12 contenders.
Saturday began with three teams in the conference having just one loss on the season and all with at least an outside shot at the College Football Playoff.
By day’s end, two of those teams saw their playoff hopes go down the drain.
No. 12 UCLA fell 34-28 to Arizona in a major late-night upset at the Rose Bowl. It was perhaps an even more shocking result than No. 6 Oregon’s 37-34 loss to No. 25 Washington earlier in the day.
Both UCLA (8-2) and Oregon (8-2) now have two losses and will no longer factor in the playoff picture.
That leaves No. 8 USC (9-1) as the conference’s lone playoff hopeful with two weeks to go in the regular season.
The Bruins will be left wondering what could have been after Saturday’s brutal loss to a Wildcats team that had just one Pac-12 victory coming in.
Arizona was lifted by the heroics of quarterback Jayden de Laura, who was running around, keeping plays alive and making big throws all night long.
He threw for 316 yards and two touchdowns while also running for a score. His go-ahead 17-yard touchdown pass to Tetairoa McMillan on 4th down with 6:34 to play wound up being the difference.
It capped a wild two-play sequence that started with a 3rd-and-18 in which de Laura was nearly sacked for a big loss before he evaded defenders and scrambled for 14 yards to set up a manageable 4th down.
Arizona later added a field goal to extend the lead, leaving UCLA with a last-gasp drive to try to go for the win in the final minute. It got down to the Arizona 28 before Dorian Thompson-Robinson’s 4th down pass sailed incomplete on the final play of the game.
The typically potent Bruins offense was held well below its season scoring average of 40.8 points per game because of its inability to finish drives. A lost fumble and a missed field goal loomed large.
The bulk of UCLA’s offense came from running back Zach Charbonnet, who racked up 181 yards and three TDs on 24 carries. He also had nine catches for 38 yards.
While UCLA actually outgained Arizona 465-437, the Bruins had a less efficient 6.1 yards per play to the Wildcats’ 6.7.
Put simply, Arizona made the bigger plays in crucial situations. And the end result is easily the biggest win of the Jedd Fisch era in his second year in charge of the program.
He inherited a huge rebuilding project in Tucson and suffered through a 1-11 season last year. Now at 4-6, his Wildcats still have hopes of becoming bowl eligible if it can beat Washington State and Arizona State in its final two games.