|QB Matt Scott led a Wildcats comeback, tossing two TDs in the final two minutes to erase a 13-point deficit. (US Presswire)|
QB Matt Scott had one last season to prove his worth to Arizona fans. Then he had one last drive to cement his name in history.
Both worked out pretty well.
Scott threw two touchdowns in the final two minutes to lead the Wildcats to a stunning, 49-48 victory over Nevada in the New Mexico Bowl in a wacky and wild start to the college football bowl season.
Not once but twice did Arizona (8-5) find itself on the outs, headed toward sure defeat. First, when Nevada took a 21-0 lead less than 11 minutes into the game; then, when the Wolf Pack (7-6) went up 45-28 near the end of the third quarter in Albuquerque.
Both times, the Wildcats fought back.
Early, it was RB Ka'Deem Carey who threw Arizona on his back, rushing for three first-half touchdowns to help the Wildcats narrow the gap, eventually heading into halftime down 31-28. Then late it was the great Scott, who threw three touchdowns in the game's final quarter -- including two to WR Austin Hill -- to somehow pull the Wildcats within striking distance.
After Arizona recovered an onside kick with 42 seconds left, it took Scott all of three plays and 23 seconds to move the Wildcats to within scoring range, before he found TE Terrence Miller for the 2-yard touchdown.
A last-gasp attempt by Nevada QB Cody Fajardo was intercepted by Arizona S Marquis Flowers with 19 seconds left, and the Wildcats kicked off bowl season with a triumphant rally.
When the game turned: It's hard to narrow it down, as the game had more twists and turns than a soap opera. Ultimately, the game came down to a perfectly executed onside kick, which took an Arizona bounce and was recovered by Flowers.
|Arizona RB Ka'Deem Carey likely locked up the FBS rushing title with a 172-yard performance . (US Presswire)|
Highlight moments: In a game that featured 97 points, there were several.
The biggest play for the Wildcats might have been Hill's 63-yard touchdown from Scott to open the fourth quarter, a play that appeared to rejuvenate the Wildcats, even if it took a while. But Scott's brilliant play during the game's final two drives -- which included passes of 28 yards to WR Garic Wharton, 21 yards to Hill and 17, 12 and eight yards to Miller -- could have made up a highlight reel all by itself.
Of course, none of that would've been that special had Fajardo not given Nevada two huge leads from which Arizona came back. Fajardo tossed touchdown passes of 17 and 28 yards to TE Zach Sudfeld in the first half, then scored twice more in the third quarter, once on a 33-yard pass to WR Richy Turner and once on a 1-yard touchdown run.
Significance of Arizona's victory: One year removed from a 3-9 debacle that cost former coach Mike Stoops the job, Rich Rodriguez came in on his white horse and led the Wildcats to just their second bowl win since 1999. Arizona's last two postseason appearances were forgettable, albeit against staunch opponents, as the Wildcats lost by a combined score of 69-10 to Nebraska (a 33-0 loss in the 2009 Holiday Bowl) and Oklahoma State (36-10 in the 2010 Alamo Bowl). But the memorable come-from-behind win gives Rodriguez his seventh career eight-win season and propels the Wildcats into the recruiting season with some momentum, which they'll need to restock a defense that loses key players.
Significance of Nevada's loss: Not much, as coach Chris Ault is about as secure as he can be up in Reno. But while the Wolf Pack have now lost six of their last seven bowl games, the fact that they've advanced to the postseason for eight consecutive seasons is a real accomplishment. With an offense that should return Fajardo and running back Stefphon Jefferson, who nearly edged out Arizona's Carey for the nation's rushing yardage lead, the Wolf Pack should be even stronger next year.
|Nevada dual-threat QB Cody Fajardo finished with nearly 400 yards of total offense. (US Presswire)|
- Wildcats QB Matt Scott -- 28 of 46 passing for 374 yards, 3 touchdowns; 20 yards on 6 carries and 1 touchdown.
- Wolf Pack QB Cody Fajardo -- 22 of 31 passing for 255 yards, 3 touchdowns passing; 140 yards and 1 touchdown on 22 carries.
- Wildcats RB Ka'Deem Carey -- 172 yards on 28 carries and 3 touchdowns; 3 catches for 15 yards.
- Wolf Pack RB Stefphon Jefferson -- 183 yards and 2 touchdowns on 35 carries.
- Wildcats WR Austin Hill -- 9 receptions, 179 yards and 2 touchdowns.
- Wolf Pack WR Richy Turner -- 6 receptions, 95 yards and 1 touchdown.
- Wildcats DB Marquis Flowers -- Game-clinching interception after crucial onside kick recovery.
- Wolf Pack K Allen Hardison -- 6 for 6 on extra points, 2 for 2 on field goals.
- Wolf Pack WR Zach Sudfeld -- 2 touchdown receptions
What they said:
- Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez: “We didn't play well, but we kept on playing.”
What they tweeted:
- Arizona Daily Star columnist Greg Hansen: “Touching post-game interview scene: Matt Scott weeping. He can cry all the way to the bank now #happytears."
- Tucson Citizen editor Anthony Gimino: "Last time I had to rewrite a lede so much at the end of game, Ortege Jenkins was leaping into end zone in 1998."
- Reno Gazette-Journal's Nevada beat writer Chris Murray: "Coach Ault said he felt "sick" six times in his eight-minute press conference. That's a good way to describe this loss."
|Nevada RB Stefphon Jefferson had a huge game but committed a costly fumble that hurt the Wolf Pack. (US Presswire)|
Numbers you should know: Arizona surrended 658 yards, second most allowed by the defense in team history, on 105 plays by the Nevada offense. ... The Wolf Pack racked up 40 first downs; the Wildcats had 35. ... Nevada gained 402 rushing yards to Arizona's 197. ... The Wildcats led for all of 19 seconds. ... The 1,234 combined yards was second-most in bowl history.
(For more on the game, check out the Eye on Football blog)