I woke up around 5:30 this morning and between changing diapers and filling up sippy cups with milk, found the end of the Arizona/Nevada game on ESPNU. As luck would have it, I turned on the television just as Nevada was calling a timeout to set up their final field goal. As I sat there watching the miraculous ending unfold, I was realized that a number of things had to happen for the Wildcats to win. Some were major and others were more subtle.
Flowers recovered the on-sides kick with some help.
Settling For Three
After the Wildcats dropped Nevada for a loss on third and four, the Wolfpack decided to call a timeout and settle for a field goal inside the Wildcat 10. If they go for it on fourth down one of three things likely happens: 1) Convert the first down and run out the clock. 2) Score a touchdown and the game is over. 3) Fail to convert, but give Arizona the ball inside the 10.
Conceivably they could have turned the ball over, but realistically they are putting the Wildcats in a bad position. Even if they fail to gain the first down, Arizona is getting the ball inside the 10 and will have to march nearly 20 yards further than they eventually had to.
On the first play from scrimmage after the Nevada field goal, Matt Scott hits Ka’Deem Carey on a short pass. Carey is hit almost immediately and fumbles the ball. Wide receiver Garic Wharton races from out of nowhere, scoops up the ball and is able to turn up field. He not only gains about six yards, but gets out of bounds, stopping the clock.
Nevada dropped their defensive backs deep, seemingly unafraid to give the Wildcats underneath patterns, even if it meant giving them the sideline. On the two plays following the fumble recovery, Scott was able to hit Tyler Slavin on quick outs on the sideline. The two plays gained 17 and 12, picked up two first downs, moved the Cats near midfield, but most importantly, stopped the clock. Because of the cushion, the Cats gained 29 yards while losing less than 20 seconds.
Pass Interference I
Those two quick hitters actually set up the next two plays. Slavin faked like he was running the same route, then took off up field. The cornerback was playing a little tighter and got caught out of position. Trailing Slavin by only a step, he grabbed his jersey from behind, slowing him up just enough for Scott’s pass to sail long, but also enough to draw the flag. In those three targets to Slavin on the sideline, the Wildcats gained 44 yards, using less than 25 seconds.
After the pass interference, the Wildcats hand off to Carey. Carey gains just four yards and is tackled in bounds. The Wildcats have no timeouts and scramble to get to the line, but are bailed out by an injury to a Nevada player. The officials stop the clock, which allows the Wildcats to get lined up. Instead of losing nearly 30 seconds, the Cats lose about 10-15.
Pass Interference II
Two plays after the Carey run, the Cats go for the endzone. The pass is off target, but Nevada is again whistled for interference. The replay shows another jersey grab/slowdown, but also shows a pass that looked to be overthrown. There is a chance that in the NFL that the flag is picked up but it was a legitimate call at the college level and gave the Wildcats the ball at the two-yard line.
TD, future TD
The Wildcats score on the first play after the penalty, but also set up their next score as well. The Wildcats come out in a formation where Slavin and Austin Hill are both lined up to the right of Scott. Slavin is the outside receiver and Hill is in the slot. Both receivers run identical routes, they both fake the slant, and then cut to the outside, leaving their defenders shaded inside. Scott throws a nice pass to Hill for the score.
On the game winner, the Wildcats line up in the same formation. This time, the defenders stay on the outside shoulder, awaiting the fake. Instead, both Slavin and Hill run normal slants, keeping their bodies between the defenders and Scott. Scott throws a bullet to Slavin for the score.
On-Sides Kick Assist
A few things went right on the onsides kick. In the game against ASU, in a similar situation, John Bonano got a good bounce, but the ball bounded high without hitting anyone. Patrick Onwuassor may have had an outside shot of catching it above his head, but could not get his hands on the weird, high bounce and the ball bounced out of bounds.
Against Nevada, Bonano again got a good bounce on the ball, but it did not kick up as high as it did against ASU. Instead, it hit Nevada’s Duke Williams in the chest, but had so much spin that he could not handle it.
Marquise Flowers was right on Williams, in fact he may have screened him a bit from the ball, and jumped right on the pigskin. Jared Tevis also had a bead on the ball and bounces. However, Tevis realizes that Flowers has a better shot at the ball than he does and actually helps scoots the ball under Flowers(who was in the process of tucking it away), instead of pulling on the ball for himself. This move insures that Flowers has the ball under him, instead of risking it squirting out back into play.
Johnny Jackson was also in the area. Instead of diving at the area of the loose ball, he covered Flowers, shielding him from any late arriving Nevada players.
The first play from scrimmage after the recovery is a deep pass in the seam to Wharton. Earlier in the game the Wildcats ran a similar play on the opposite hash, but Wharton did not adjust and failed to make the catch. This time Wharton was in perfect position, made a tough grab, then held on as he was belted by the Nevada DB. Wharton only emerged late in the season and has not taken a lot of shots like that one.
After Wharton’s catch, Arizona chooses not to spike the ball to stop the clock and run a play. The Cats’ normal fast paced offense is in effect and they get up to the line and set before the officials can spot the ball. All told they lose less than five seconds from the spot to the snap.
The next throw saw Scott hit Hill on the sideline. Hill did not go out of bounds, instead turning up-field to gain a few more yards. When he is finally tackled at the Nevada two, the official rules he is out of bounds, stopping the clock and saving Arizona more time. The replay shows that Hill’s knee touched before he rolled out of bounds. Although Arizona did not need a lot of time, the fact the clock was stopped meant that the Wildcats did not need to rush to the line and hurry up. They could get set, and call the play they wanted, which was the slant to Slavin.