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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Column: Despite Fiesta Bowl defeat, the 2014 season was huge for Arizona football

The+Arizona+football+team+huddles+during+the%26%23160%3BVizio+Fiesta+Bowl+Game+in+Glendale%2C+Ariz.+at+University+of+Phoenix+Stadium+and+Arizonas+38-30+loss+to+Boise+State+on+Wednesday.+After+a+10-4+season%2C+Arizona+football+is+back+on+the+map.
Rebecca Marie Sasnett

The Arizona football team huddles during the Vizio Fiesta Bowl Game in Glendale, Ariz. at University of Phoenix Stadium and Arizona’s 38-30 loss to Boise State on Wednesday. After a 10-4 season, Arizona football is back on the map.

Glendale, ARIZ. — On its last play of the season, Arizona football and quarterback Anu Solomon simply ran out of time. It was a season full of bumps in the road, miraculous comebacks and game-winning field goals. But in the final moments of the 44th annual VIZIO Fiesta Bowl with the clock ticking, the Wildcats ran out of steam, falling 38-30 to Boise State.

The ending seemed ironic as Arizona football constantly preaches 60 minutes of Arizona. For such a dynamic season, it definitely did not end the way Arizona wanted it to.

The Wildcats ended the campaign with a 10-4 overall record (7-2 Pac-12 Conference) and two-straight disappointing losses. It came with an overall season theme of “competing to the end,” as UA head coach Rich Rodriguez put it.

“I just feel bad for the seniors because I don’t want them to think this is their lasting memory,” Rodriguez said. “I want their lasting memory to be winning the Pac-12 South, the month of November, how they accomplished things.”

In order to understand the phrase “competing to the end,” all one has to do is look back at all the high and low points of the season. In the second week of the season, Arizona squeezed out a 26-23 victory over UTSA on the road. Against Nevada in the third week, the Wildcats only won by one touchdown, a slim victory of 35-28. Every Arizona fan will remember for years the miraculous hill mary play in what was a 49-45 victory over California.

After the Cal game, Arizona fans appeared to be in shock. Just four years before, the UA was without a head coach after the firing of former UA head coach Mike Stoops. But this group of seniors never quit, opening the 2014 season with five-straight victories.

“Four years ago, we had lost our coach,” UA receiver Austin Hill said. “We didn’t have a very good season at all. But then when coach Rod came in, he changed everything around. He made us believe and work and feel that we could make U of A a football school.”

That is until the first bump in the road came for Arizona in the form of a 26-24 heartbreaking loss against USC. In the game’s final moments, UA kicker Casey Skowron missed a possible game-winning field goal. He received death threats and was the last player to leave the locker room following the defeat.

A few weeks later, Skowron redeemed himself by kicking a field goal to beat Washington 27-26 at home. The season also came with a huge victory over in-state rival Arizona State.

Arizona appeared to be at an all time high. The Wildcats ended Rodriguez’s drought of zero wins against ASU and won the Pac-12 South division, earning their spot in the Pac-12 Championship and possibly a spot in the College Football Playoff.

That seems to be when the tides turned for Arizona. The Wildcats suffered a 51-13 thrashing against Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship game in what was an embarrassing way to fall from the national spotlight.

In the Fiesta Bowl, Boise State got off to a 21-0 lead, and it looked like Arizona would not stand a chance. But as many of the Arizona games previously, the game came down to the final play, a sack by the Boise State defense, leaving Anu Solomon on the ground.

“What killed us is we didn’t finish,” Rodriguez said. “We either got field goals or didn’t score. That was a big difference in the game.”

For the Arizona seniors, they leave disappointed. Against Boise State, safety Jared Tevis injured his elbow in the first quarter and was out the rest of the game. Hill had just three catches for 25 yards. Safety Tra’Mayne Bondurant had 11 total tackles, one sack and one forced fumble, which he then recovered.

“Definitely had a great senior season,” Bondurant said. “Blessed I had a chance to even be here. Just thanking everybody for the opportunity. I appreciate the university and the coaching staff for everything.”

The UA has always been known as a basketball school. Thanks to this Arizona football team, the UA will now be known as a football school too by proving itself at the national level. The Wildcats even upset then-No. 2 Oregon team that will be competing in the College Football Playoff.

“We really believed in ourselves, considering the win over Oregon early in the season,” Hill said. “That’s when I think we really started to believe in ourselves that we could accomplish more than we thought we could. At that point it just became our goal to let the nation know that we could play football here at U of A.”

Although it may be feeling down at the moment, this Arizona football team has exceeded all expectations and has put Tucson back on the NCAA football map.

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