Arizona Wildcats take care of Utah and ghosts from past (for now)

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Nick Wilson rushes for a 75-yard game-changing touchdown in the fourth quarter

Arizona freshman Nick Wilson rushes for a 75-yard game-changing touchdown in the third quarter (ESPN screen shot)

ARIZONA 42, UTAH 10
An Arizona win over ASU and Stanford victory over UCLA on Friday puts the Wildcats in the Pac-12 title game against Oregon.

Anu Solomon did not play in the second half with Arizona perilously holding on its lead over a Utah team that was building momentum Saturday afternoon at Salt Lake City.

Solomon stood on the sideline, his face covered to keep warm from the frigid conditions. The redshirt freshman aggravated his right ankle injury late in the first half while trying to avoid Utah defensive end Nate Orchard. He was without his shoulder pads and wore a boot on his right foot after halftime.

Backup Jesse Scroggins fumbled an errant snap with Arizona seven yards from the end zone in his first possession. Utah answered with a field goal to cut the lead to 21-10 with 5:14 left in the third quarter. The Wildcats were forced to punt on the next series.

Drew Riggleman’s punt bounced into the hands of the nation’s most dangerous punt returner, Kaelin Clay, who sprinted down the sideline avoiding tacklers 87 yards for an apparent touchdown.

2014 PAC-12 SOUTH STANDINGS

Team Conf Pct All Pct
Arizona 6-2 .750 9-2 .818
ASU 6-2 .750 9-2 .818
UCLA 6-2 .750 9-2 .818
USC 6-3 .667 7-4 .636
Utah 4-4 .500 7-4 .636
Colorado 0-8 .000 2-9 .182


Thoughts came to mind of Arizona’s collapse at Cal in 1993, when it led 20-0 at halftime and lost 24-20. A Rose Bowl berth eliminated.

The memory of the questionable pass interference call on Mike Scurlock at Oregon in 1993 became painful again. The call contributed to the Ducks beating Arizona and derailing the Rose Bowl hopes of the Desert Swarm.


Arizona defensive lineman Dan Pettinato runs in for a touchdown on a fumble recovery in the second quarter (ESPN screen shot)

Arizona defensive lineman Dan Pettinato runs in for a touchdown on a fumble recovery in the second quarter (ESPN screen shot)

Clay’s apparent touchdown caused Tucsonans and Arizona fans to believe this was just another one of those seasons in which the Wildcats were good but not good enough, the Chicago Cubs syndrome all over again.

A yellow flag near midfield changed that course, at least for now.

Utah’s Bobbie Hobbs was called for an obvious hold on Arizona long snapper Jose Romero before Clay fielded the punt. If you like feel-good stories, Romero’s Hollywood-esque journey to playing for the Wildcats evolved into what could be one of the most significant calls in Arizona football history.

Instead of trailing by only 21-17 heading into the fourth quarter, Utah started at its own 6 still trailing by 11 points.

Utah’s psyche never adjusted and Arizona pounded the dejected Utes with big play after big play.



Those plays in chronological order:

— Arizona defensive back William Parks sacked Utah quarterback Travis Wilson after Wilson fumbled the snap in the pouring sleet and rain. The Utes were forced to punt in that possession after Clay’s touchdown return was nullified. The drive stalled at the Arizona 35.

Nick Wilson, a true freshman who rushed for 218 yards on 20 carries, busted loose on a game-changing 75-yard touchdown run on Arizona’s ensuing possession to help put the Wildcats up 28-10. Wilson has 1,085 yards rushing and 12 rushing touchdowns in his first year of college football.

Jared Tevis intercepted a Wilson pass in Utah’s next possession, his second fourth quarter pick of the season.


— That led to another touchdown by Wilson, a 19-yard burst, to put Arizona ahead 35-10 with 10:40 left.

Tra’Mayne Bondurant then returned an interception 39 yards for a touchdown that was thrown by Utah backup quarterback Conner Manning. Game over.

Bondurant stripped the ball from Utah running back Bubba Poole in the first half that led to defensive tackle Dan Pettinato’s 31-yard fumble return for a touchdown in the second quarter to give Arizona a 21-0 lead. It was Bondurant’s strip of a ball by a Washington runner last week that led to Casey Skowron’s game-winning field goal.

ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He also writes articles for Bleacher Report and Lindy’s College Sports.

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