Heroes with secret identities are usually the thing of comic books, not bowl games. In the case of the Gildan New Mexico Bowl Arizona had a “who was that masked man?” moment. For the record that masked man was Tyler Slavin.
Tyler Slavin wearing his normal No. 11.
If you watched the game on ESPN or checked out on-line box scores you probably believed that senior receiver Terrence Miller abandoned his attempt to gain a medical redshirt and came off the bench to save Arizona. If you know what Miller looks like you knew that the No. 18 who made play after play on the Wildcats’ final two drives was someone else.
If you’ve actually seen Tyler Slavin, you could tell it was him when the television cameras zoomed in, but for most of America, they believe that Miller was a hero in Arizona’s improbable comeback win.
Slavin began the game wearing his normal No. 11 jersey, but emerged sometime in the second half wearing a No. 18 jersey with no name on the back. The announcers naturally assumed it was Miller, since he too plays receiver.
Heading into the final two drives Slavin had zero catches and had not played a lot in the early part of the game but took advantage of a Dan Buckner injury and shined.
Slavin had four catches for 39 yards on those final two drives. He worked the right sideline the entire time. His first catch was for 17 yards and got the Wildcats a first down. His second catch got them inside Nevada territory. A third completion on the drive went for eight yards, got the Wildcats another first down and two plays later the Wildcats scored.
Slavin only had one catch on the final drive, but it was a biggie. Slavin caught the two-yard, game winning touchdown. It was his first career touchdown.
The redshirt freshman had an up and down season. He had 18 catches for 187 yards, but also had some big drops and some negative plays. On the game ending interception against Oregon State, he appeared to cut off his route and did not “play defense” when the pass was headed to the Beaver defender.
Today, Slavin is one of the Wildcat heroes. Hopefully tomorrow folks will realize it.
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