Arizona football defeats Washington 27-26 behind the leg of Casey Skowron
Fans cheer as Arizona scores a touchdown during the first half of Arizona's 27-26 win against Washington at Arizona Stadium on Saturday
In a season filled with magical endings and heartbreaking losses, Arizona football managed to pull out yet another game it had no real business winning, when kicker Casey Skowron nailed a 47-yard field goal as time expired in the Wildcats’ 27-26 come-from-behind victory over Washington on Saturday.
This was again the stuff of legends or maybe something you might see on a Hollywood set. Just ask Arizona football head coach Rich Rodriguez.
“I will steal the line from one of the greatest movies, ‘Gladiator,’” Rodriguez said. “‘Are you not entertained?’”
For Wildcat fans at Arizona Stadium on Saturday, there was plenty of entertainment.
The Wildcats got on the board first when running back Nick Wilson scored from two yards out with 8:32 remaining in the first quarter after a 57-yard pass from Anu Solomon to Samajie Grant set up Arizona at the goal line. Grant made an athletic grab near the sideline and nearly backpedaled into the end zone for a touchdown but was ruled just short.
Solomon finished the day without a touchdown pass for the first time in his career and struggled throughout, finishing only 17-39 for 242 yards and two interceptions. The redshirt freshman was pressured all afternoon from the UW front seven and was sacked twice, ending the game with only three yards rushing.
Washington quickly answered the Wilson touchdown just under two minutes later, as Washington coach Chris Petersen pulled out one of his legendary trick plays. Washington tight end Joshua Perkins caught a 36-yard touchdown from wide receiver Marvin Hall in what looked like a rush. The Arizona defensive backs were caught completely off guard, and Perkins was left all alone for the easy score.
The second quarter was one of the most bizarre 15 minutes of football to be seen, as despite a mostly dominant effort from Washington on offense and defense, the Huskies found themselves trailing 21-17 at halftime due to a few key plays from the Wildcats offense, defense and special teams.
After the Huskies jumped ahead by 10 points following a 37-yard field goal by Cameron Van Winkle and a 66-yard run by Dwayne Washington, Skowron lined up for a 35-yard field goal to close the lead just before halftime. But instead, the recently condemned kicker made his first of two big plays on the afternoon when he received a direct snap and ran to the right side untouched for the easy score, cutting the Washington lead to only three.
“The fake was something we’ve been working on all week,” Skowron said. “It was a type of fake that we knew we were going to run, and it was just a matter of getting the ball in the right area. I just put my head down, waited for the snap and I was ready to go.”
With a little over a minute remaining in the half, the Huskies got the ball back and looked to add to their lead instead of playing conservatively and were burned when quarterback Cyler Miles fumbled the ball away to Wildcat safety/linebacker — and turnover magnet — Tra’Mayne Bondurant.
Arizona took a 21-17 halftime lead when Wilson ran in untouched from eight yards out after Solomon hit a couple of quick passes to set up the score.
After receiving the second half kickoff, the Wildcats were driving down the field, but a fumble from Wilson was recovered by Washington superstar linebacker Shaq Thompson at the Huskies’ 44-yard line. Washington made it a one-point game on its ensuing drive when Van Winkle’s kick was good from 31 yards.
A one-yard touchdown run from Dwayne Washington put the team back in front at 26-21 with 2:45 remaining in the third. But in what may have been the biggest play of the game, an errant snap on the extra point resulted in only a five-point lead for the Huskies.
As the fourth quarter began, Arizona finally made a big play on offense in the fourth quarter as Solomon hit receiver Trey Griffey in stride for a 63-yard dime down the sideline. Despite the big play, the Wildcats had to settle for a 35-yard field goal from Skowron and only trailed by two at 26-24 with 13:08 left in the game.
After the two teams traded punts, the Wildcats drove down the field with a few big runs from Wilson, only to have Solomon intercepted for the second time on the night as a miscommunication led to UW cornerback Sidney Jones making an acrobatic snag in the back of the end zone with only 4:25 remaining.
Washington looked like it was going to run out the clock with a few first-down conversions from the running game, and things looked all but over for the Wildcats. However, instead of kneeling the ball, the Huskies handed it off once more to running back Deontae Cooper, who ended up stacked by the Arizona defense and stripped by Bondurant. UA linebacker Derrick Turituri recovered the ball at the Washington 45-yard line, giving Arizona hope with 1:23 left on the clock and a time out at its disposal.
“It was just one of those plays where I saw a guy still running, so I took the ball out of his hands, and it was a great play,” Bondurant said. “I knew we had time outs, so I understood that they were going to run a couple of plays, so we just wanted to buckle down as a defense.”
After a few quick plays, Solomon threw what looked like a game-winning 34-yard strike to receiver Cayleb Jones in the back of the end zone. The play was reviewed, and it was ruled his toe just barely touched out of bounds.
A short gain by Wilson to the Washington 30-yard line gave the Wildcats a shot at the win.
Skowron, who was the target of hate and anger after missing a game winner against USC just over a month ago, lined up to win back his redemption and the game.
The Washington coaches called a time out in order to ice Skowron, but it backfired as his first attempt — which was wide right — was blown dead. After the quick time out, Skowron’s second attempt from 47 yards out was a no-doubter, and the Wildcats, in improbable fashion yet again, walked away with the 27-26 victory.
“It’s gone down to the wire before, but that’s the definition of a good team — when you find ways to win and pull it out,” UA safety Jourdon Grandon said. “We’ve just come miles since the beginning of coach Rodriguez’s era. You never know what can happen. Football is a crazy game, and that’s why it’s not played on paper.”
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