Arizona football's comeback bid falls short to Boise State in Fiesta Bowl
GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) - Jay Ajayi ran for 134 yards and three touchdowns and No. 21 Boise State made a late defensive stand to hold off No. 12 Arizona 38-30 in the Fiesta Bowl on Wednesday.
Boise State (12-2) raced to a 21-0 lead in the opening 10 minutes behind a string of big plays before allowing Arizona to claw its way back.
The Wildcats marched quickly down the field in the closing seconds, but Kamalei Correa sacked Anu Solomon at the 10 on the final play.
Grant Hedrick threw for 309 yards and a touchdown, helping the Broncos cap a successful first season under coach Bryan Harsin with their third Fiesta Bowl victory.
Arizona (10-4) fell flat in the Pac-12 Championship against Oregon in its previous game and labored early against the Broncos. The Wildcats rallied, but had trouble finishing drives, settling for three field goals after driving deep into Boise State's end.
Solomon threw for 335 yards and a touchdown, but had two interceptions that led to touchdowns for Boise State.
Of all the non-playoff bowls, the Fiesta had one of the most intriguing matchups.
Boise State made a name for itself at the Fiesta Bowl, trick-playing its way past Oklahoma in 2007 and knocking off previously unbeaten TCU to finish 14-0 in 2010.
The Broncos made their way back to the desert by winning eight straight games under Harsin, who replaced Chris Petersen after he left for Washington.
Arizona won bowl games its first two seasons under Rich Rodriguez and took a big step this season, winning the Pac-12 South Division to earn a spot in an upper-tier bowl for the first time since the 1994 Fiesta Bowl.
Adding to the intrigue, the Broncos and Wildcats have two of the nation's most prolific offenses, setting up what was expected to be a wild game.
It certainly lived up to the billing at the start.
The big-play Broncos burst out of the gate with long touchdowns on their first two drives: a 56-yard touchdown run by Ajayi and a 57-yard TD hookup between Hedrick and Chaz Anderson.
No Fiesta Bowl with Boise State would be complete without a Statue of Liberty play, so the Broncos did that, too. It came much earlier than usual, but was just as damaging.
Ajayi scored on it, running left and stiff-arming Arizona cornerback Cam Denson to the ground for a 16-yard touchdown that left two Arizona players injured and the Wildcats down 21-0 before the first quarter was over.
Arizona was finally able catch its breath and marched in for a 1-yard touchdown dive by Solomon.
But just when the Wildcats looked like they were back in it, Solomon threw an interception, setting up the Broncos with a short field. Ajayi cashed in, running around left end and diving for the pylon on a 1-yard TD run that made it 28-7.
Nick Wilson scored on a 1-yard run in the second quarter, but Boise State still led 31-17 at halftime after Hedrick completed 17 of 18 passes for 272 yards.
Boise State had 2 yards on 14 plays in the third quarter, but took an 18-point lead when Donte Deayon returned Solomon's second interception 16 yards for a touchdown.
Solomon made up for it right after that, scrambling to the right before finding Samjie Grant for a 51-yard touchdown strike that made it 38-27 heading into the fourth quarter.
Arizona cut it to eight on Casey Skowron's third field goal, from 32 yards, but couldn't finish off its final two drives.