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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Rose Bowl unbound

Alan Walsh/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Alan Walsh
Alan Walsh/Arizona Daily Wildcat

A disgustingly familiar feeling filled the Arizona football team’s locker room Saturday night. Once again the Wildcats’ players dealt with the pain of a game lost, which, at one point, had been all but won.

With just more than three minutes remaining in the game, Arizona players and fans thought the team had overcome then-No. 11 Oregon (9-2, 7-1 Pacific 10 Conference) and kept its Rose Bowl hopes alive on what would be an emotional senior day. But before the celebration could begin, Ducks’ quarterback Jeremiah Masoli took advantage of a late Wildcats’ turnover and orchestrated what would be a game-tying 15-play, 80-yard drive, sending the game into overtime in which Masoli himself would hand Arizona the decisive blow.

As the game began, the Wildcats’ offense appeared out of sync as their first five drives ended with four punts and a fumble on the goal line. Defensively, Arizona (6-4, 4-3 Pac-10) also struggled to take advantage of opportunities as it forced Masoli to fumble twice but failed on each occasion to corral the ball.

Oregon, however, found ways to move the ball early and took a 14-0 advantage early in the second quarter.

With starting running back Nic Grigsby already out after re-aggravating a shoulder injury, Arizona finally found the end zone with just more than four minutes to go in the half following an interception by linebacker Sterling Lewis. Arizona quarterback Nick Foles moved the ball 44 yards and capped the drive with a five-yard touchdown pass to receiver Juron Criner.

Kicker Alex Zendejas later managed to cut Oregon’s lead to four with a career-long 47-yard field goal as the half came to a close.

“”We were pretty sloppy and not in a very good rhythm,”” Criner said of Arizona’s first-half play. “”We knew we had to pull it together (after halftime) and come out with our hair on fire and get the job done the next 30 minutes.””

Arizona appeared to do just that by adding a touchdown early in the third quarter to take its first lead of the game.

The Wildcats’ defense also looked impressive, shutting down Masoli and the Ducks in the third quarter.

But in the fourth, fireworks abounded as both teams added an abundance of scoring. The Wildcats took a 10-point lead before an Oregon touchdown and field goal knotted the game at 24.

But on Arizona’s next offensive, Foles found Criner for a 71-yard touchdown jaunt, immediately giving the Wildcats the lead back with just less than eight minutes to play.

After stuffing Oregon’s offense on four straight plays, Arizona had the ball and looked to have control of the game as it began moving into Oregon territory.

But then Foles made a key mistake on 3rd-and-16, throwing an interception in the end zone and giving Oregon the ball with 3:11 remaining.

“”It’s just one of those things where if (the pass) was about an inch to the left it might be a catch,”” Foles said. “”It’s just close. There’s nothing you can really say. Plays like that are gonna happen during a football game. You can’t be perfect and you know there’s always missed opportunities.””

This missed opportunity proved pivotal as the Ducks took advantage of their new life to tie the game as time expired.

After one stalemate overtime period, the Wildcats’ offense stalled and failed to reach the end zone, eventually settling for a field goal.

Oregon then attacked Arizona’s tiring defense and a 23-yard first down pass by Masoli to receiver Ed Dickson set the Ducks up on the Arizona two-yard line. Two plays later, the game and the Wildcats’ Rose Bowl dream was over as Masoli added his third rushing touchdown of the day, his sixth touchdown overall.

“”This is just a really tough loss, especially for these kids,”” said UA head coach Mike Stoops. “”We gave a great effort on the most part. Oregon just made some good plays down the stretch and that made the difference.

“”I thought we had a good plan,”” he added. “”We just came up short late in the game.””

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