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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Column: Wildcats overcome adversity and prove doubters wrong in upset of No. 10 Utah

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Zi Yang Lai

Utah defensive back Marcus Williams (20) dives for Arizona quarterback Jerrard Randall (8)’s legs during the Wildcats’ 37-30 win over the Utes in double overtime Saturday, Nov. 14 at Arizona Stadium.

The football floated into Nate Phillips’ hands perfectly in the back of the end zone after a Jerrard Randall drop back in double-overtime. For the first time all season, everyone inside Arizona Stadium believed in this team. 

The ZonaZoo was loud and proud and the entire crowd outside of the students stayed until the very last defensive stand, despite the game ending close to midnight for another episode of Pac-12 after dark. 

The Wildcats are used to dealing with adversity and when game situations become uncomfortable, the UA has always found a way to lose regardless of how it ended. 

Everything in the game was going Arizona’s way or at least keeping them competitive against the Utes.  

No. 10 Utah is a physical team and Arizona football head coach Rich Rodriguez knew that going into its final home stand of the season. The referees happened to be trigger happy when it came to penalties, as the Utes had 10 penalties for 112-yards. 

Despite Utah playing with some attitude, the Wildcats found themselves competing until the final home stand. 

Arizona was without Anu Solomon for a large portion of the fourth quarter and beyond after Utah’s Jason Fanaika led with the crown of his helmet, giving a shot to Solomon on his dome, which caused whiplash. 

The crowd’s reaction of disgust revealed how significant the shot to Solomon was. Solomon would leave the game after going 17-for-27 with 277-yards and two all purpose touchdowns. 

“I thought he ran well and scrambled, and I keep telling him that he is a better athlete than maybe sometimes he projects,” Rodriguez said. “He has good speed, and he’s got a great feel for the game. He just needs to learn to protect himself. I thought he created some really good stuff today.” 

A team riddled with injuries and Solomon’s injury coincidentally came as soon as the game became interesting. 

Utah understood that without Solomon, Arizona’s offense was one dimensional behind Randall. Utah defensive back Brian Allen mentioned that the Utes’ defense struggled to contain Solomon and the Arizona offense. 

“I felt like our biggest struggle was just containing Solomon,” Allen said. “We had a couple good plays but we just couldn’t stop him. He’s a good quarterback. When you can move around in the pocket and make plays down the field, that’s really hard to stop defensively.”

Once Randall checked into the game, Arizona Stadium’s energy exploded because déjà vu struck. It happened to be the same situation as the UCLA game, in which the Bruins thumped Arizona, ending the game. 

Once the overtime period hit, Arizona had to create a turnover and rely on Casey Skowron to win the game, because there was no way Randall was going to win. 

Then, as the game went into the second overtime period, Randall was still without a completion and ran for negative three yards. 

During the first play in double-overtime, Randall threw a bomb to the end zone for Phillips and he was able to haul it in for a touchdown. 

“I didn’t know he caught it at first, but I was very happy when I saw that he hauled it in,” Randall said. “It felt amazing. I saw that it was man-to-man coverage in the slot and when he checked, I knew it would be a touchdown.” 

Once Utah quarterback Travis Wilson threw the incomplete pass, the Wildcats had done it. 

Arizona has faced adversity on a weekly basis and always found ways to lose games, but the Wildcats finally overcame the adversity and earned their sixth win, which makes the them bowl eligible. 

“With everything that has happened with the injuries, and the way that the schedule is lined up, I think maybe some of the doubts understandably started to creep in,” Rodriguez said. “I don’t pay attention to the experts on TV as far as what they were expecting, but you heard a lot about Utah having a change to be in the College Playoffs, and rightfully so. They had deserved that. They’ve earned that. They’ve had a tremendous season, but they still had to beat Arizona, and our guys came to play.”


Follow Justin Spears on Twitter.


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