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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Column: Cardiac Cats comeback again

Washington quarterback Cyler Miles looses control on the UA 18-yard line during Arizonas 27-26 win against Washington at Arizona Stadium on Saturday.
Tyler Baker

Washington quarterback Cyler Miles looses control on the UA 18-yard line during Arizona’s 27-26 win against Washington at Arizona Stadium on Saturday.

Trailing 26-21 heading into the final frame after a listless third quarter, Arizona football was dead. Sure, they only trailed by five points, but up to that point, its greatest offensive weapon was its kicker, and its support was literally disappearing. Many UA fans had seen enough and left.

However, the Wildcats showed signs of life by cutting the lead to 26-24 when, with 13:08 left, kicker Casey Skowron added a field goal to his touchdown and extra point scores.

After holding the Huskies scoreless, the Wildcats got to the UW 17-yard line and had their chance to finish off Washington, but UA quarterback Anu Solomon threw the ball directly to UW’s Sidney Jones in the end zone.

The Wildcats were finished. Washington ran the clock down to 2:13 as the UA used its second time out. The game was surely over.

“At that point, a lot of people probably thought it was over, but our defense didn’t,” UA football head coach Rich Rodriguez said. “They went out there and got the key turnover.”

But once again, the No. 17 Wildcats came back from the brink, this time forcing a Washington fumble.

“I’m just glad we had an opportunity to rake the ball,” Rodriguez said. “Really, we were done then, and I got to be honest, I was still talking to myself about the turnover that we had a few plays earlier, and I can’t repeat all the words I was saying.”

Arizona got the ball back, and Solomon seemingly redeemed himself by throwing for a 34-yard touchdown pass. However, it was ruled out of bounds.

Surely, the Wildcats could not recover again, right?

Well, Skowron came back in, weeks after he was iced by USC and missed a game-winning kick, and instead left the field a hero this time. UW iced him, but it didn’t matter, as the Wildcats (8-2, 5-2 Pac-12 Conference) rallied to beat Washington 27-26.

“Every time I kick, I think about the USC game,” Skowron said, “but part of being a great kicker is being able to come over things that have happened in the past, just going on to the next kick.”

Skowron’s walk-off winner came after missing his first try, which was negated by a Husky time out.

“Oh man, we were praying, we were locked up man, we were just hoping it went through,” said UA senior safety Jared Tevis, who had 14 tackles and a sack.

Fittingly, one of Arizona’s best comeback stories, senior safety Tra’Mayne Bondurant forced the fumble on Washington’s last drive. The Wildcats opened training camp with Bondurant off the team, and he spent weeks working his way back into the playing rotation and is now a captain.

“Thank God for the luck,” Bondurant said about the forced fumble. “I’m really appreciative for it.”

UW defensive end Andrew Hudson said the Huskies felt confused after the game, while other Huskies expressed frustration.

“It’s really frustrating, especially that fake field goal for a touchdown,” UW linebacker Hau’oli Kikaha. “It’s a little crushing, but we still had opportunities later in the game and we didn’t execute.”

Arizona won its fifth close game of the season and has truly earned the “Cardiac Cats” moniker that is so often bestowed on UA teams because it sounds cute. It’s not just that; the fight they show is truly impressive, and they seemingly never give up.

“Man, I’ve been thinking I’m too young to get a heart attack,” UA safety Jourdon Grandon said. “It’s gone down to the wire, but that’s the definition of a good team, and we just find ways to win and pull it out. And we’ve just come miles since the beginning of Rich Rod’s era.”

Arizona has outscored opponents 100-59 in the fourth quarter. The Wildcats have outscored opponents 85-45 in the first and 96-65 in the third, but that margin of 41 points in the decisive frame is the Wildcats’ biggest.

Rodriguez said he told the players at halftime that “it’s going to come down to the last minute.”

“I’m just proud that our guys have an understanding that we got to play for 60 minutes,” Rodriguez said.

In the fourth quarter, the Wildcats force fumbles, recover onside kicks and connect on Hail Marys. There’s just something about Arizona in the last quarter that’s special.

Sure, the UA barely beat UTSA, Nevada, California and Washington, not exactly great teams, but they already have eight wins with two to go. The last time they won eight games in the regular season was 1998.

“Every win is a good win, especially in November,” Rodriguez said. “There’s a lot at stake, and the more you win, the more’s at stake, especially this month.”

November is setting up to be very entertaining.

Rodriguez opened his postgame press conference with a quote from “one from of the greatest movies made ever, Gladiator: ‘Are you not entertained?’”

Things looked pretty bleak for Maximus Decimus Meridius in “Gladiator,” too, but he also kept fighting — like a Wildcat.

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Follow James Kelley on Twitter.

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