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The Daily Wildcat

 

FINAL Gildan New Mexico Bowl: Arizona 45, New Mexico 37

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Alex McIntyre

Arizona running back Jared Baker (23) slips past the New Mexico defense on his way to a touchdown early in the second quarter of the Gildan New Mexico Bowl at University Stadium in Albuquerque, New Mexico on Saturday, Dec. 19.

ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico — As Scooby Wright III prepared to take the podium following his final game as an Arizona Wildcat, he hugged head coach Rich Rodriguez and allowed a few tears to slide down his war-painted cheeks.

This was an emotion-ridden moment worth savoring.

After leading Arizona to a 45-37 victory over the University of New Mexico in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl, Wright III, with a shaky voice, gave the announcement Arizona fans hoped he’d never have to make. 

Good-bye Tucson. Hello NFL.

“Thanks to Wildcat nation for the past three years,” he said. “I’m forever grateful for all of you guys.”

Wright saved one of his best games in a Wildcat uniform for last.

He caught onto UNM’s triple option attack quickly, as he was often the first Wildcat to be in position for a tackle when the Lobos tried to run the ball to the outside.

Wright also came up with a defining sack late in the fourth quarter.

With the Lobos down by five late in the fourth quarter and driving in the UA red zone, backup quarterback Austin Apodaca was stuffed by Wright on a fourth-down conversion attempt.

Arizona subsequently responded with a 36-yard field goal by Casey Skowron to push the lead to eight points with a minute and 30 seconds left on the clock. UNM’s final possession ended in an interception, sealing the win.

Wright finished the game with 15 total tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and a pair of sacks.

“I’m healthy,” Wright said. “I was just feeling good out there and playing the way I usually way.”

For most of the game, it looked like the Wildcats wouldn’t need any late-game heroics from Wright.

The offense, which had to operate at an efficient, quick pace to make up for a limited number of possessions, gelled for most of the afternoon.

A healthy Anu Solomon led the charge, completing 13-24 attempts for 329 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Cayleb Jones was the main recipient, as he pulled in 184 receiving yards.

“Anu was seeing the field really well,” Rodriguez said, “Cayleb and the wideouts did a good job of winning some routes, and we got some big plays.”

Jared Baker added another 107 yards on the ground, including three touchdowns.

However, Arizona would go on to blow most of its 18 point, third quarter lead.

Lobos due-threat quarterback Lamar Jordan ran for three touchdowns of his own, passed for another and kept the Wildcats’ defenders on their heels.

New Mexico ran the ball almost exclusively, which tired the UA defense and also drained the play clock.

“They did a great job,” Rodriguez said. “They controlled the clock, they controlled the possessions.”

But when Jordan went down with a late third-quarter injury, his backup, Apodaca, could not execute the triple-option to the same level.

On the Lobos’ penultimate drive, being down five and driving in the Arizona red zone, Apodaca mistimed a pitch on third down, leading to a UNM fumble recovery and a seven yard loss.

That mistake set up what would be Scooby Wright’s final sack and tackle in an Arizona uniform.

“I feel like I’ve accomplished everything I’ve wanted to in college,” Wright said.

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