Crazy comeback caps Gildan New Mexico Bowl win for Arizona
Arizona's roller coaster of a season was capped off in exciting fashion on Saturday, as the Wildcats came back from 13 points down with just 1:48 left in the game to stun Nevada and win the Gildan New Mexico Bowl.
There wasn't much defense played in Albuquerque but for the first bowl game of the postseason, it sure set the bar pretty high for others in terms of entertainment as the teams combined for 1,234 yards and 97 points. The Wolf Pack also set a FBS Bowl record by picking up 39 first downs.
If there was one lesson learned from the game though, that would be it's not over until it's over.
A short but time-consuming drive by Nevada milked the clock late in the game and Allen Hardison kicked a 25 yard field goal to push the Wolf Pack lead to 48-35 with just 1:48 showing on the clock. That figured to be just about all she wrote for Rich Rodriguez after he had to burn through all of the team's timeouts in hopes of a stop, but the game wasn't over yet.
The Wildcats offense seemed to come alive just when it needed to, with quarterback Matt Scott finding his receivers for several big gains and Nevada's defense providing 27 yards on penalties alone. Arizona ended up going 78 yards on six plays in just 1:06 to pull to within 48-42.
With 42 seconds left on the clock and everybody in the stadium knowing an onside kick was coming, Wildcats' linebacker Marquess Flowers miraculously managed to snag the ball and set up the offense up with a chance to win the game at their own 49. It took just three plays to advance 51 yards before Scott connected with Tyler Slavin for a two yard score to tie the game. Kicker John Bonano booted the extra point for the final one point margin and, after Flowers intercepted Nevada quarterback Cody Fajardo to seal it, Arizona ran off the sideline in celebration when the clock struck zero.
Defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel likely won't be happy when he watches film of the game after a tired and injured Arizona group gave up 405 yards rushing and 48 points. Amazingly, Nevada ran 111 plays and scored six touchdowns but still managed to lose by one in a game that turned into the shootout that everybody expected.
It may have given a few fans a heart attack but it was nevertheless a memorable way to notch eight wins in Rodriguez' first season in Tucson. Running back Ka'Deem Carey kept his title as the nation's leading rusher intact by running for 172 yards and three scores to bring his season total to 1,929 yards and a school record 23 scores on the ground. Scott alternated between hot (four total touchdowns, 374 yards passing) and cold (two interceptions) but came through in the clutch down the stretch by engineering the comeback.
At times it looked like Arizona would be wondering what happened in their final game of the year. Instead, thanks to a few crazy plays late, the Wildcats will head into the offseason as winners of five of their last seven and have plenty of momentum heading into 2013.