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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Wildcats trump Trojans

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

    The Arizona football team found itself in a familiar position as it trailed USC late in the game, but the Wildcats made the big plays when it mattered to beat the Trojans 21-17 to finish in a tie for second place in the Pacific 10 Conference.

    With the win, Arizona (8-4, 6-3 Pac-10) finished the regular season with its best record in more than a decade and gave UA head coach Mike Stoops his first career win against USC (8-4, 5-4). For the third time in as many weeks, the Wildcats’ game came down to the final play and for the second straight week they were able to celebrate on the opponents home field.

    “”We have an awfully good football team, and that’s what it took to beat some very stiff competition. To beat USC you have to have a very complete program and a team without many flukes,”” Stoops said. “”I don’t know what USC’s going through, I just know to beat them you have to be pretty darn good in a lot of different ways. They’re still USC.””

    The Wildcats played well early during the game, so well they held a 14-7 lead at halftime thanks in large part to a big-time play from redshirt sophomore wide receiver Bug Wright. Facing a 3rd-down-and-16 play at the Trojans’ 21-yard line, UA quarterback Nick Foles lobbed a pass down the left sideline and the 5-foot-9 Wright leapt high into the air to come down with the ball at the 2-yard line.

    “”I told Nick before the play, ‘If you go to me man, just throw it up and just give me a chance,”” Wright said. “”I got some bounce, man. I can jump a little bit. I told him to give me a chance to make a play on the ball. He threw a perfect ball, and I just jumped up and grabbed it and came down with it.””

    Two plays later, Foles snuck his way into the end zone to give Arizona the lead, but the team didn’t have as good of luck in the third quarter. The Wildcats only mustered 27 yards of offense in the third quarter, and the Trojan offense came out of the locker room fired up and it showed.

    USC held the ball for more than 10 minutes during the quarter and had the Wildcats on their heels as the Trojans gained 110 yards and tied the game at 14 on a 5-yard score by tailback Allen Bradford. But it was a series in the fourth quarter when Arizona held USC out of the end zone that kept the Wildcats in the game.

    Seemingly near scoring the go-ahead touchdown, USC was called for a holding penalty and Arizona’s defense stiffened up and held the Trojans to a field goal, putting USC on top 17-14 with just over seven minutes left in the game. After not being able to move the ball in the second half, Arizona turned it on during crunch time.

    With seven minutes left in the game, the Wildcats drove 44 yards in nine plays to get to the USC 36-yard line and had a run play called. Foles saw the Trojans were in press coverage and changed the play to a pass to sophomore wide out Juron Criner. Foles led Criner down the left sideline, who snared the pass, kept his balance as he staggered down the sideline and leapt across the goal line to put Arizona on top 21-17 with 3:14 left.

    “”That’s what happens when you play a team like that. With two pretty even matched football teams, it comes down to guys making a couple of contested plays,”” said UA offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes. “”… Juron did a great job of stepping up and making that play.””

    That’s when the Arizona defense picked up its game as well. USC freshman quarterback Matt Barkley was hounded by a fierce UA pass rush on the ensuing possession, getting sacked by defensive tackle Earl Mitchell on the first play. Three incomplete passes followed and Arizona then began to run out the clock.

    USC had one last play with three seconds left, but again Mitchell got to Barkley before he could heave a desperation pass from his own 21-yard line.

    “”We kind of do good when it’s easy, and then sometimes the pressure kind of gets to us. This time it was the opposite,”” said UA outside receivers coach Dave Nichol. “”… I think, hopefully, this could put us over the hump mentally about going and making it at money time when you’ve got to.””

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