Phillips’ TD reception will go down as one of best in school history


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Arizona backup quarterback Jerrard Randall lofts the throw perfectly over the defender, Boobie Hobbs, to an outstretched Nate Phillips

Phillips hauls it in, landing hard on his back … touchdown … the Arizona players and crowd goes into a frenzy …




Close to the area Phillips made the go-ahead grab in the end zone, a fourth-down pass from Utah’s Travis Wilson fell incomplete to Kenneth Scott, well defended by Tellas Jones and DaVonte’ Neal.

Game over: Arizona 37, Utah 30, double overtime.

Arizona’s defensive stand after Phillips’ 25-yard touchdown reception cemented the play as one of the best in school history considering the circumstances.

The victory also deserves to be among the Top 50 games in Arizona history because of the factors involved — Utah’s No. 10 ranking and contention for the College Football Playoffs and the Wildcats struggling with a three-game losing streak with the future clouded because of coaching rumors involving Rich Rodriguez.

“With everything that’s happened, injuries, way schedule has set up, some of doubts, this is one of the best (wins) for sure,” Rodriguez said in the postgame press conference.

What makes Phillips’ touchdown grab from Randall’s perfect throw historic is it helped Arizona become bowl eligible with a 6-5 record. The Wildcats are now bowl eligible for the fourth straight year in the Rodriguez era. If Arizona receives a bowl invitation, it will mark the first time in school history that the Wildcats will play in a bowl four straight years.

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“Give credit to the Wildcats,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham told reporters. “They made the plays when they had to. That last touchdown pass, a great throw, great catch.”

In terms of biggest plays in the Rodriguez era, the Randall-to-Phillips connection ranks the highest with the Anu Solomon-to-Austin Hill “Hail Mary” pass that beat California last season.

Few other top pass plays in Arizona history come to mind (all happening at Arizona Stadium):

— The Ronald Veal-to-Derek Hill “Hail Mary” touchdown pass right before halftime of Arizona’s 28-18 victory over ASU in 1988. …

— The two long touchdown passes from Tom Tunnicliffe to Brian Holland (92 yards) and Brad Anderson (67 yards) that enabled Arizona to beat ASU 28-18 in 1982, keeping the Sun Devils out of the Rose Bowl and starting the nine-year unbeaten streak against their rivals. …

— The Tunnicliffe-to-Jay Dobyns 8-yard touchdown pass in the very back of the end zone in 1983 that was the difference in Arizona’s 27-24 upset of UCLA, the Pac-10’s champion that season. …

Unlike the free-for-all Hail Mary passes, Randall’s pass to Phillips was a designed play against man-to-man coverage applied by Hobbs. The pass landed at the perfect spot over Hobbs and Phillips twisted his body at the right time to make the catch while falling.

“I didn’t know he caught it but when I saw him haul it in, I was pretty happy, I was like, ‘Oh man,’” said Randall, who previously threw four incomplete passes after substituting for the injured Solomon, one of them an interception.

“I’ve gotta go make a play,” Phillips, who hails from Chandler Basha High School, said when asked about Rodriguez calling the play his way. “It’s the second overtime at this point and we’re checking this play for a reason, so you have to make the play.”
Here’s his touchdown reception for you to observe again, maybe 100 more times again …








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

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