Arizona Wildcats fall short of upset bid against Utah
TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — Cameron Rising threw for 294 yards and two touchdowns, T.J. Pledger ran for 119 yards and two touchdowns, and Utah maintained its lead in the Pac-12 South by beating Arizona 38-29 on Saturday.
It was a hard-earned win for the Utes (7-3, 6-1 Pac-12, No. 24 CFP), who had a tougher time than expected with the last-place Wildcats. Arizona led for part of the first half and kept the game tight all afternoon.
Rising’s perfectly placed 17-yard touchdown pass to Dalton Kincaid in the back corner of the end zone late in the third quarter gave the Utes a 31-20 lead and some semblance of control in the back-and-forth game.
It didn’t last long.
Arizona (1-9, 1-6) responded with a field goal to cut the advantage to 31-23 and then the Wildcats scored again when Nazar Bombata blocked a Utah punt and Rhedi Short recovered before scoring a 3-yard touchdown to pull within 31-29 with about 10:30 left. The Wildcats’ two-point conversion to tie was unsuccessful.
Utah finally closed the game with a bruising 15-play, 75-yard drive that lasted more than eight minutes. It was capped by Pledger’s 2-yard touchdown run with 2:10 left.
Utah’s offense was the difference-maker once again. The Utes have scored at least 34 points in five straight games. They took a 21-17 halftime lead after Rising hit Brant Kuithe for a 2-yard touchdown with two seconds remaining.
Arizona had pushed ahead 17-14 a few minutes earlier after Lucas Havrisik crushed a 57-yard field goal that cleared the crossbar with plenty of room to spare.
Arizona’s multiyear struggles have been well-documented, but for a fourth straight week, the Wildcats proved to be a competitive opponent. They played Washington and USC tight before snapping their 20-game losing streak with a 10-3 win over California last week.
Arizona’s Will Plummer finished with 219 yards passing and one touchdown.
Utah scored a touchdown on the game’s opening drive thanks to two big third-down conversions. Rising capped the drive with an 11-yard touchdown run, slicing into the corner of the end zone just inside the right pylon.
Arizona responded with a 43-yard touchdown from Plummer — the team’s only healthy scholarship quarterback — who avoided Utah’s pressure and scrambled straight up the middle to tie the game at 7-all.
Utah: The Utes host Oregon next Saturday in a potential preview of the Pac-12 championship game.
Arizona: The Wildcats travel to face Washington State next Saturday.