Snap Judgments: Arizona scores last, laughs loudest; Utah State rolls
Quick hits on the first Saturday of the 2012 college football bowl season. Recap the best Twitter action from today’s bowl games with the Campus Union Laff Riot.
• New Mexico Bowl: Arizona 49, Nevada 48: Just because this is almost exactly what we were expecting out of the New Mexico Bowl doesn’t mean it was any less satisfying to watch. Like the season proper, bowl season will contain all manner of football. There will be scoring barrages and slogs, footraces under the south Florida sun and grinding stops in the snow. But we can’t think of anything more proper to kick off the postseason than a fireworks show.
It took the Wolf Pack just more than two minutes to score their first touchdown, which seemed an appropriate length of time given Arizona’s defense. The manner of the scoring was also not unexpected, with Stefphon Jefferson motoring for a 16-yard rushing touchdown. What we did not expect to see was Arizona punting on the ensuing possession … and again on the Wildcats’ second possession. With a 17-yard scoring pass from Cody Fajardo to tight end Zach Sudfeld, Nevada went up 14-0, and the Wildcats gamely dug a deeper hole for themselves by fumbling the kickoff return. The Pack recovered, and on the very next play from scrimmage, Fajardo and Sudfeld teamed up again for a 28-yard score. (This all despite Sudfeld, according to the broadcast team, suffering from the lingering effects of stomach flu.) This being Nevada and Arizona, all this took place in the first 11 minutes of the ballgame.
This might have been the point at which disinterested viewers changed the channel. Their loss: In the next five minutes of clock time alone, they would have seen Arizona quarterback Matt Scott barreling past a linebacker for a fourth-down conversion, Ka’Deem Carey’s first score of the game on a 21-yard run and a 29-yard interception of Fajardo by Shaq Richardson to set up the Wildcats’ second scoring drive of the game. (Arizona celebrated this defensive coup with a fight on its own sideline.) A second ‘Pack turnover on the next drive, this one a fumble by Jefferson in a swarm of Wildcat defenders, set up Arizona’s third score for the 21-21 tie.
Due to time and space constraints, we’ll move forward in the action. By the close of the third quarter, Nevada had built up a 45-28 lead. Fajardo had scored two touchdowns and sustained at least two new injuries. He donned a glove after hitting his hand on a helmet and got a knee brace put on after folding up awkwardly underneath a tackle. Arizona’s second comeback campaign of the game began on the second play of the fourth quarter, with Scott hitting Austin Hill for a 63-yard touchdown. It was the longest play of the afternoon for Hill, who amassed 175 receiving yards on just eight catches.
But those watching this on replay just need to catch the final two minutes of the game to watch the Wildcats snatch victory from the jaws of a 13-point deficit. Nevada kicked a field goal just under the two-minute mark to go up 48-35, but Arizona responded with speed and alacrity: Two Scott passes to Terrence Miller for 17 and 12 yards plus a 15-yard penalty from Nevada moved the Wildcats past midfield and deep into ‘Pack territory. Hill caught his second touchdown pass with 42 seconds on the clock. Arizona’s Marquis Flowers recovered the onside kick. Hill and Garic Wharton caught back-to-back passes of 20-plus yards from Scott; Miller scored on Scott’s third touchdown pass of the game and John Bonano’s extra point gave the Cats a one-point edge. And wouldn’t you know it: Flowers saved the game for Arizona twice in that final minute. On Nevada’s first and only play of its final drive, he intercepted Fajardo to secure the win. Wonder of wonders, that a game like this should be wrapped up with defense, but if Arizona’s 116th-ranked unit was ever going to show up today, it certainly chose its spot with care. [RECAP | BOX]
• Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: Utah State 41, Toledo 15: Utah State’s defense, which has quietly put together one of the better statistical seasons in the FBS this year, teamed up with a host of Toledo injuries to defang the pointy potential in tonight’s MACtion-versus-WACtion showdown. Rockets linebacker Dan Molls, the national leader in tackles, was injured on the opening kickoff and did not return to the field, and top-10 rusher David Fluellen reinjured his ankle early in the game. Even speedster Bernard Reedy had a relatively quiet night after gaining 60 yards on his first two plays: a 24-yard return of the opening kick and a 36-yard catch from Austin Dantin on the Rockets’ first play from scrimmage. (Reedy later scored the Rockets’ only touchdown of the contest, but we’ll get to that in a minute.)
Apart from a 62-yard touchdown run from Utah State quarterback Chuckie Keeton late in the first quarter, most of the Potato Bowl passed quietly — right up until halfway through the fourth quarter, when Aggie Kerwynn Williams burst free for a 63-yard touchdown. One fast Toledo three-and-out later, Williams ripped off a 56-yard run on second down, followed by a five-yard score. Dantin was intercepted on the second play of Toledo’s answering drive and (stop us if we’re getting repetitive) Williams took another stroll for a 25-yard score. All of this took the Aggies from a 13-9 lead to a 34-9 lead in around three minutes of clock time.
The Aggies weren’t finished, either. Reedy executed one of his elating kickoff returns for an 87-yard score after Williams’ third touchdown, and though the Rockets attempted and recovered an onside kick, they quickly turned the ball over on downs. Presumably stung by the insult, the Aggies let Joe Hill have a little fun with a 24-yard touchdown — set up, of course, by a 32-yard run by Williams on the previous play. A fittingly WAC-y end for the Aggies’ final game as a member of the conference. [RECAP | BOX]