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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

COMIC: Rat’s Nest #3
Olivia MoreyFebruary 28, 2024
 

Despite mishaps, Arizona beats Toledo in overtime

Colin+Prenger%2FArizona+Daily+Wildcat
Colin Prenger/Arizona Daily Wildcat

The Arizona kicking game has gotten a lot of bad publicity in the last few years for its struggles under pressure. Those struggles continues Saturday night, but even with a missed game-winning chip shot by John Bonano, the Wildcats stayed composed and beat Toledo 24-17 in overtime in front of 48,670 fans at Arizona Stadium.

With under a minute left on the clock and the game tied at 17 apiece, Arizona (1-0) drove inside the Toledo 10-yard line. The Wildcats elected to kill the clock and set up a short field goal to win the season opener and coach Rich Rodriguez’s Arizona debut.

But Bonano shanked a 25-yard kick wide left, breathing new life into a Toledo (0-1) team that was staring its first loss of the season square in the eyes.

“We could have hung our heads after that,” Rodriguez said after the game. “Like I told our guys, we can hang our heads for a second, then we got to bring to bring them back up. And they did that.”

Quarterback Matt Scott quickly brought Arizona to the ten yard in the first possession of overtime, but the drive stalled.

The Wildcats’ play on third and goal immediately broke down as the Rockets rushed into the backfield and chased Scott out of the pocket.

With a defender breathing down his neck, Scott managed to stop on a dime near the right endline and throw across his body to a wide open Terrence Miller for the go-ahead touchdown.

“At the last second I caught (Miller) out of the corner of my eye, and just slung the ball to him,” Scott said. “He made a great catch and a great play.”

The pass was just the icing on a strong performance for Scott, who hadn’t started since a 29-21 victory over UCLA in 2010. The senior set career-highs in both passing and rushing yards, both previously set in that same UCLA game nearly two years ago.

Scott went 30-of-46 for 387 yards with two touchdown and an interception, as well as 74 yards on the ground, but no play was bigger than the game winning toss to Miller.

The game still wasn’t over, as Toledo had a chance to respond in overtime. But the Arizona defense stepped up, forcing a 4th and 20 where Rockets’ quarterback Austin Dantin’s throw fell harmlessly to the back of the endzone.

Arizona had 624 total yards, including 237 yards on the ground, compared to Toledo’s 358 yards. But sloppy plays, including three turnovers, costly penalties and a dropped touchdown catch, kept the Rockets in the game.

And the missed field goals by Bonano didn’t make things any easier.

“I haven’t seen (Bonano) miss hardly any of those the last couple of weeks,” Rodriguez said. “But he’s a good kicker, he’ll bounce back.”

Bonano went 8-for-12 last season, but the ghosts of the Arizona kicking game past reappeared, as the senior missed two easy kicks from within 25 yards Saturday. Bonano hit his other attempt from 26-yards in the first quarter, but it will hardly erase the memories of his final two kicks.

“One play doesn’t define a whole game,” said linebacker Jake Fisher, whole lead the team with 13 total tackles, including 2.5 for a loss. “I mean there is so much pressure put on that one play, but both sides of the ball… could have done so much better. We could have had a bigger cushion.”

“To tell you the truth, it kind of fell back on us,” Fischer added. “(The defense) thought we didn’t play as well as we should have.”

The Rockets’ ground game of David Fluellen and Cassius McDowell, who had 161 total yards, combined with solid but sporadic passing from Dantin and junior Terrance Owens, with 197 yards through the air, to give an undermanned Arizona defense troubles all night.

But the Wildcats were able to bend, not break, keeping the fast-paced Toledo offense in check, minus a 59-yard throw-and-catch by Owens to receiver Alonzo Russell in the second quarter. And the Wildcats defense was able to produce some pressure with two sacks on the night — a rarity for a team that last season only had 10.0 sacks on the season.

The win gave Arizona its 12 straight victory in home openers, and still hasn’t lost a season opener at home since 1987.

Scott and Fischer weren’t the only players to contribute to the first win of the season for the Wildcats.

Safety Jared Tevis had 12 total tackles and two pass breakups, running back Ka’Deem had 147 yards on 20 attempts and sophomore Austin Hill led the team in receiving yards with 139 on seven receptions.

Carey and Hill also provided the only two Wildcat touchdowns during regulation — a 73-yard winding run by Carey and a spectacular 33-yard diving catch Hill.

“I thought he had overthrown me, but I told myself I was just going to drive for it and try to make something happen,” said Hill about his diving catch, which was Arizona’s first touchdown of the season. “I have had many (diving catches) in my career, so it was pretty fun.”

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