More than 50,000 fans at Arizona Stadium on Saturday left heartbroken after seeing their beloved Arizona Wildcats flirt with an upset of No. 16 UCLA, but ultimately being denied the bliss.
Ka’Deem Carey and BJ Denker weren’t slowed much by the Bruins defense, doing their usual groundwork while combining for more than 200 yards rushing. Wide receiver Nate Phillips, meanwhile, caught a pair of touchdowns (his fifth and sixth of the season), while accruing 97 yards receiving.
But UCLA had Brett Hundley and freshman Myles Jack on their side and they bested the Wildcats’ rushing efforts, getting 249 total yards on the ground — 10 more than Arizona — while gaining 227 in the air.
Jack, a linebacker, was inserted by UCLA coach Jim Mora to the offensive attack, gaining 120 yards rushing for the Bruins, with all but 40 of those yards coming on a 66-yard rushing touchdown. Jack led his team in rushing, with Hundley and Paul Perkins each getting 56 yards on the ground.
After going down 24-10 at the beginning of the second half, which was opened by UCLA, Carey and the Wildcats marched down the field, into Bruins’ territory and all the way to the goal line. There, the All-American running back lost control of the ball as he leapt for the end zone, fumbling and giving UCLA possession via a touchback.
The play proved monumental, as the Wildcats managed to outscore the Bruins 16-7 from there on out, ultimately falling by less than a touchdown, 31-26.
Rich Rodriguez’s team clawed their way through the rest of the game, no less — getting a pair of fourth quarter receiving touchdowns from Phillips.
Then, with less than two minutes to play and backed up to their own 15-yard line, the Wildcats looked to Denker to lead them back down the field for a shot to win. Instead, pressured by an aggressive UCLA pass rush, Denker threw a trio of incompletions before throwing a fourth-down interception to chisel in a mark in the loss column.
Arizona showed more than just its signature rushing prowess Saturday; it showed fight — creating turnovers and making plays throughout the game which never allowed UCLA to pull too far in front.
A lack of ball protection from the Wildcats’ best player, Carey, proved fatal in the end, as a surefire touchdown was seemingly lost to carelessness in the third quarter. Given the final deficit, the Wildcats’ will undoubtedly look back to Carey’s fumble as a monumental blunder in the loss.
Arizona prepares to host Washington State next Saturday at Arizona Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for noon MDT.