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October 20, 2013
Eleven for eleven.
So, naturally, the redshirt freshman missed a pair - including a crucial kick late in the fourth quarter - and UA running back Ka'Deem Carey made up for his own gaffe earlier in the quarter to put away the Utes, 35-24, in front of 50,871 at Arizona Stadium.
Carey's 44-yard touchdown with 1:30 to play was the capper on his 236-yard rushing night - the third-most in school history - on a career-high and school-record 40 attempts. The win gave the Wildcats (4-2, 1-2 Pac-12 Conference) their first league win of the season and snapped a two-game skid.
"I felt like I let my team down so when I got that ball and saw the crease, I said, 'Man, I've got your back team," Carey said, alluding to his fumble with less than seven minutes to play.
Funny enough, Carey ran it against the wishes of head coach Rich Rodriguez, who was yelling for him to go down and kill the clock.
"I'm sure he didn't hear me - and probably didn't care," Rodriguez added.
"He was going to run that if we needed 90 yards or 150 yards or 250 yards. He was going to keep running. He was going to be like Forrest Gump on that one."
The junior also topped 3,000 rushing yards for his career, the sixth player in Arizona history to do so, and moved into fifth place on the program's all-time list. Carey now sits at 3,159 rushing yards, just four shy of Mike Bell (3,163 from 2002-05).
But the milestone night was nearly ruined. Trailing 28-24, Utah forced a rare Carey fumble, caused by L.T. Tuipolutu, and recovered on the Arizona 39 with 6:29 remaining. But Phillips missed wide left on a 40-yarder at the 3:49 mark.
The Utes (4-3, 1-3 Pac-12) suffered a letdown a week after knocking off a top-five Stanford team in the previous week.
Leading 20-7 at the half, Arizona began to give back some of the momentum after Johnny Jackson muffed a punt - his first of two in the half - and Utah recovered on the Wildcats' 17-yard line. Three plays later, Kelvin York cut the deficit to 6 on a 1-yard run at the 10:39 mark of the third quarter.
The Utes' defense then ripped away the rest of it, needing just five plays to get off the field, and backup quarterback Adam Schulz capitalized.
On the first play of the ensuing drive, the sophomore - who entered the game before halftime in relief of a banged up Travis Wilson - executed a flea flicker and hooked up with Sean Fitzgerald on a 55-yard touchdown over the middle to take a 21-20 lead with 9:08 left.
"Coach says, 'When someone goes down, pick up the rife and that's all that was going through my mind," said Schulz, who completed 12 of 23 throws for 142 yards.
Senior defensive lineman Sione Tuihalamaka, who recorded eight tackles including 1 1/2 for a loss, said the production from others "was real impressive" for a defense that played without Jared Tevis and lost fellow safety Tra'Mayne Bondurant to a likely concussion in the first half.
Sophomore Anthony Lopez filled in for Bondurant and collected four tackles.
"Having guys like that step up and having that depth, the second team went in there and did the same job we're doing," Tuihalamaka said.
Quarterback B.J. Denker and receiver Nate Phillips then ripped the lead right back. The two connected on a 36-yard play down the sideline and then Phillips capped the scoring drive with a sliding 7-yard catch. Denker's two-point conversion on the ground then pushed the advantage to 28-21 with 13:32 to play.
"One of the plays of the game was that one down the sideline," Rodriguez said.
Added Phillips: "B.J. threw a perfect ball and it just dropped right in the bucket."
Denker completed 18 of 30 throws for 168 passing yards, and added 51 rushing yards and two scores on 13 carries.
The senior involved seven different receivers and continued the momentum established in the fourth quarter of last week's loss at USC. Phillips led the way with four catches for 63 yards.
"I saw his confidence grow (in the second half against the Trojans)," Rodriguez said of Denker. "And I saw it all week, probably for the first time to the level we expected from our starting quarterback."
With Utah driving inside Arizona territory with less than eight minutes to play, the defense again came up large as William Parks, the replacement for Tevis, broke up a pass on third down. The Utes settled for Phillips' 44-yard field goal to pull within 28-24 at the 7:11 mark.
Tied at 7 through the first 15 minutes, the Wildcats were able to continue applying pressure on Wilson. Backed up at his own 10, the sophomore absorbed a hit and avoided a sack, but his throw was picked off by Marquis Flowers and returned 14 yards for a touchdown early in the second.
"It was just a big play for the defense," Flowers said.
The UA defense then recorded its second interception of the night with 10:08 left in the half. Shaquille Richardson tracked down an overthrown pass into coverage by Wilson.
Arizona moved the ball freely against a defense that had stifled the run to the tune of 133.7 yards per game coming in. Denker's second rushing score of the night and a blocked extra point pushed the lead to 20-7 with 5:48 remaining.
The Wildcats racked up 161 of their 300 rushing yards in the first half.
Wilson's night ended before the first half was over, leaving the game with a bloody throwing hand, and Schulz took over in the final minute.
Wilson finished with just 15 yards on 3-of-9 passing, with a touchdown and a pair of interceptions.
Arizona ran into some bad fortune late in the first quarter. Carey dashed 65 yards for what looked to be a score, but it was negated after officials ruled that a whistle had blown before the play to correct a clock issue.
"I got an explanation. It was a matter of opinion whether it was good or not," Rodriguez said, smiling.