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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Arizona two points short against a tough and experienced BYU team

Rebecca Noble

Arizona defensive lineman Aiulua Fanene (62) dejectedly look up at the scoreboard towards the end of Arizona’s close 18-16 loss to BYU at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Phoenix on Saturday.

GLENDALE, ARIZ.— When Arizona running back Nick Wilson crossed the goal line, he gave Arizona a one point lead in the inaugural Cactus Kickoff Classic with 1:26 remaining in the game —  which turned out to be plenty of time for BYU.

Senior quarterback Taysom Hill showed why BYU has so much faith in him on the Cougars’ game-winning drive leading the team to an 18-16 win.

Hill was effective despite his numbers not looking that great. The signal caller went 21-29 for 202 yards and a touchdown but was also a threat on the ground. Hill extended multiple drives throughout the game with his legs when plays looked bleak for the Cougars and ran for an additional 37 yards.

While Hill managed the passing attack, running back Jamaal Williams torched the Wildcats on the ground as he ended up with 29 carries for 162 yards. He took advantage of Arizona’s inability to wrap up and turned that into big gains.

The Cougars struck first with a field goal after a block in the back penalty negated a Williams touchdown.

On the ensuing possession, Arizona looked to be driving down the field until Solomon was picked off by Francis Bernard on third down. The Cougars would capitalize on this turnover and drive 65 yards down the field and fullback Brayden El-Bakri punched it in from one yard out.

BYU’s defense did a great job in the first half as they stopped the run and flustered Arizona quarterback Anu Solomon all night. Solomon was a pedestrian 20-30 for 213 yards and two interceptions and he seemed out of rhythm the entire game. He was also sacked four times including a 16-yard loss to take the Wildcats out of field goal range.

“This game is on me,” Solomon said. “I got to step it up, lead better and play better.”

Despite Solomon’s inconsistency, the Wildcats were reluctant to put in backup quarterback Brandon Dawkins to potentially supply a spark to an otherwise stagnant offense.

“There might have been a thing or two that Brandon could have changed, but I have 100 percent confidence in Anu Solomon,” Arizona Head Coach Rich Rodriguez said in regards to the quarterback controversy.

Nick Wilson had only 18 yards in the first half but would finally get it going in the second half with a few big runs to give Arizona’s offense some momentum. He ended the day with 17 carries for 142 yards and helped Arizona get on the board 9-3 in the third quarter.

“It felt good, I felt great but I would trade it all for a W,” Wilson said. 

After holding Arizona to a field goal, BYU would respond with an 80-yard drive capped off with a touchdown pass to Colby Pearson to increase the Cougars’ lead 15-3.

After the score, Arizona would finally reach pay dirt with a 15-yard touchdown run by Nick Wilson to keep it a one score game.

All looked lost for Arizona when Solomon threw an interception with 5:52 remaining but they would get another chance to march down the field. After picking up a few first downs, Nick Wilson took the handoff 49 yards up the middle to give Arizona the lead the 16-15 lead. Their two-point conversion attempt failed, giving BYU a chance to win the game with a field goal.

However, BYU was not finished, as Hill would easily lead the Cougars down the field for the game winning field goal against a gassed Arizona defense. A lack of pass rush came back to haunt the Wildcats as Hill had all day to find his receivers to move the chains. Jake Oldroyd would hit the 33-yard field goal with four seconds left and that clinched the victory for the Cougars.

Arizona attempted a last ditch hook and lateral play but that netted a few yards before it failed.

Arizona will look to rebound from this loss next week as their home opener is next Saturday against Grambling State. BYU faces in-state rival Utah in the Holy War and will look to improve to 2-0.

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