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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


No. 24 Utah too much for Arizona football to maintain early lead, Wildcats fall to 2-4

Alex McIntyre
Arizona receiver Samajie Grant (10) fights Utah defensive back Dominique Hatfield (15) for a catch at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City, Utah on Saturday, Oct. 8. The Wildcats lost to the Utes 23-36.

The Arizona Wildcats fell to No. 24 Utah 36-23 in Salt Lake City on Saturday night, snapping the undefeated record against the Utes in the Rich Rodriguez era.

Redshirt sophomore quarterback Brandon Dawkins was listed as questionable for Saturday with a rib injury he suffered last week in a loss to UCLA, but got the nod over freshman Khalil Tate.

The Wildcats got on the board on the first play from scrimmage with a Dawkins 75-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Shun Brown. That touchdown pass was Dawkins’ second longest of his career and Brown’s longest reception of his career.

Arizona came into the contest with the No. 104 defense in FBS, but showed promise in the first half as cornerback Jace Whittaker had five pass breakups and linebacker Michael Barton collected five tackles. Paul Magloire Jr. received action at linebacker when Cody Ippolito went down with a knee injury and missed the rest of the game.

RELATED: Michael Barton leads Arizona football despite loss to No. 24 Utah

The Wildcats ended the first quarter leading 7-3 and it was the first time all season the defense didn’t give up a touchdown in the opening stanza.

To open up the second quarter, Dawkins completed a 42-yard pass to Trey Griffey that put the Wildcats deep into Utah territory, only to follow with an interception after an under-thrown pass to Brown.

The Wildcats and Utes traded possessions, but Arizona eventually found a spark after a 31-yard completion to redshirt freshman wideout Cedric Peterson, who made his first appearance in a game this season. After running back Zach Green pushed his way to the goal line, Dawkins scored on a 6-yard keeper to extend the Arizona lead to 14-3.

Utah quarterback Troy Williams completed a 59-yard pass to Evan Moeai with less than six minutes left in the first half to put the Utes in the red zone. Williams took two shots in the corner of the end zone attacking cornerback Dane Cruikshank, but the redshirt junior denied both attempts.

After several penalties, the Utes were backed up at midfield and were forced to punt, but pinned Arizona at the 2-yard line. Rodriguez made the decision to install Tate, but Utah defensive tackle Pasoni Tasini wrapped him up in the end zone for a safety to cut the lead to 14-5.

Following the safety, Utah regained possession and scored its first touchdown of the game after a pass from Williams to Tyrone Smith. From that point on, the Utes controlled the game, scoring four out the following five possessions. Utah took a 29-14 lead going into the fourth quarter.

Dawkins couldn’t find momentum as he threw 2-for-8 to open up the second half and left the game with an injury after hitting offensive lineman Layth Friekh in the back. Dawkins left the game throwing 11-for-20 and 243 yards with 49 rushing yards.

Rodriguez reinstalled Tate back in the lineup, who presented his opening drive in the second half like a freshman, throwing an interception on the second play.

However, the young Wildcat quarterback returned to the huddle and put  together an 11-play, 63-yard drive, but failed to score a touchdown leaving the offense to make a tough decision to go for it on fourth down while down two scores in the fourth quarter. Rodriguez made the conservative call to send Josh Pollack out to cut the lead to 29-17 with a 31-yard field goal.

RELATED: Khalil Tate takes advantage of another opportunity in rough night for Arizona quarterbacks

Arizona’s defense was then forced to answer the bell and give the offense at least a few opportunities to bring the Wildcats back. But the Utes stormed down the field in nearly four minutes, capped off by a Williams touchdown to put the game out of reach.

Tate showed off his arm with a 63-yard over-the-shoulder pass to Samajie Grant, cutting into the Utah lead, 36-23, after the failed two-point conversion. But Utah’s offense ran out the clock to seal the victory. 

Tate finished the game 5-for-8 for 105 yards and a score to go along with 33 rushing yards. Barton led the way for the Wildcats’ defense with 12 total tackles, including seven solo tackles. Griffey had a season high 109 yards on four catches.

The Wildcats fell to 2-4 on the season and 0-3 in the Pac-12 Conference. Arizona will return home next Saturday for a 12:30 p.m. kickoff time to face USC for Family Weekend at Arizona Stadium.  

Follow Justin Spears on Twitter.

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