•This story is courtesy of the Arizona Daily Wildcat.
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — It was touted as the game within the (bowl) game.
Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey versus Nevada’s Stephon Jefferson in a battle for the national rushing title, and with the New Mexico Bowl on the line.
As it turned out, the rushing battle was more of a first half storyline than the second, as Arizona’s remarkable comeback with less than two minutes remaining stole the headline.
But, the rushing battle was intriguing nonetheless.
Jefferson won the in-game battle in rushing 180 yards to Carey’s 172, but Arizona won the game 49-48 and Carey maintained the national rushing lead as Jefferson needed to outrun Carey by 55 yards to take the lead in rushing yards per game.
“That dude’s a great player,” Carey said about Jefferson. “I’m happy I got to see him play and just the way he carries himself out there. He won the battle, that’s how you do it.”
In the first half, Carey outran Jefferson 145-129, but the duo received significantly less touches in the second. Carey appeared to have a chance to become Arizona’s first-ever 2,000 yard rusher, but that never came to fruition when he tallied just 12 yards in the third and 15 in the fourth. Jefferson only had seven carries in the final half.
Carey, who scored three touchdowns against the Wolf Pack, finished the year with 1,929 yards (or 148.4 per game) and a school-record 23 rushing touchdowns, breaking Wildcat great Art Luppino’s record of 21 set in 1954.
The sophomore back took the national total rushing yardage lead away from Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch, but Lynch still has the Orange Bowl on New Years Day against Florida State to catch up to Carey. Lynch will need 159 yards on the ground for the advantage.
Jefferson ended up with 1,883 (144.8 per game) and 23 touchdowns on the season.
Fisticuffs ensue between two Wildcats
Toward the end of the first quarter a fight broke out on the sideline between two Wildcats.
Tevin Hood, a junior defensive tackle, and Cody Ippolito, a freshman linebacker, each threw a punch at each other before being separated as Arizona trailed the Wolf Pack in the early going.
Head coach Rich Rodriguez said he didn’t see what happened because he was busy “coaching the game.”
“As soon as I heard what happened, we sent the guys to the locker room,” Rodriguez said. “It was embarrassing, but I didn’t see it, so I can’t comment on it.”
Ippolito was sent off the field immediately, while Hood went in after a few drives.
After being sent to the locker room the players left University Stadium with their families, according to Rodriguez.
Hood, a walk-on transfer from Duke, played in every game this season for the UA and had 24 tackles (two for loss) on the season and had two tackles before leaving.
He’s not Terrence Miller
In the first of Arizona’s final two drives in the fourth quarter, which helped the Wildcats overcome a 13-point deficit, a No. 18 trotted out onto the field as an outside receiver.
His number was 18, but there was no name on the back of the jersey.
Injured senior receiver Terrence Miller is listed at No. 18, and the PA announcer at the stadium announced Miller as the one who went on to record three catches for 23 yards in the final two minutes, including the game-winning 2-yard touchdown grab with 19 seconds left.
ESPN followed suit, saying Miller had the game-winning grab in its one minute highlight of the game online.
It wasn’t Terence Miller, though, it was Tyler Slavin.
The sophomore receiver, who has worn No. 11 all season, had to wear No. 18 “because there already was a No. 11” on special teams.
He tried to best portray his inner Miller, the senior who has missed most of the season with injuries and is seeking a medical redshirt.
“You could say that,” Slavin said, laughing. “Whatever it is, if I’m playing I’m gonna play how I play and do what I’m most capable.”
After not seeing any snaps in the game prior to that, and struggling with drops in a few games this season, it came as a bit of a surprise to see Slavin not only on the field in crunch time, but as Scott’s primary target in the two most important drives of the game.
Rodriguez gave a simple reason why Slavin got the reps in the end.
“Fresh legs,” he said.
“We had fresh legs in the end. Got him in there, and he was running a little different speed. [Receivers] coach [Tony] Dews and I talked about it, saying we have to get Tyler in there because our receivers were running a lot of deep routes. When he got in there, he performed, I was really proud of him.”
Slavin didn’t care why he only got in at the end, but he was happy to contribute to getting a win for Scott and the rest of the seniors.
“That could’ve been the reason but whatever the case was I’m glad they did put me in,” Slavin said. “With my season I started off a little sluggish so for that to happen it gave me more motivation and it’s a good feeling.”
As for the final touchdown grab that wound up winning the game for the UA, which was a “memory for a lifetime” for him, Slavin said he got the signal for a slant pattern and lined up “wider than normal.”
“I just got off the line and the ball was thrown and I caught it.”