Arizona football notebook: Arizona's loss to Houston
A Houston player pushes past an Arizona defender during the UA-Houston game at Arizona Stadium on Sept. 9.
Arizona had the ball at the Houston Cougars 32-yard line and were down by three points with just under four minutes remaining in the game. The Wildcats were in position to either potentially tie the game or take the lead, until they weren’t.
Khalil Tate threw a costly interception on a slant route and Houston took over. The Wildcats got another crack with two minutes to go, but four straight unsuccessful plays led to a turnover on downs and the Cougars proceeded to run the clock down to triple zeros.
Just like that, the thoughts of Arizona pulling out a come-from-behind victory were erased as Houston won its first game of the 2017 season by a final score of 19-16. The victory also marked Houston head coach Major Applewhite’s first victory as a college football head coach.
Here are some other notables from Arizona’s loss to Houston:
Brandon Dawkins started the game for the Wildcats, but his performance left a lot to be desired.
The redshirt junior completed 17 of his 29 passes (58%), but Dawkins missed routine throws at critical points in the game, including a potential touchdown. On a 3rd & goal from the Cougar’s four-yard line with 1:53 left in the third quarter, Dawkins sent an erratic throw over the head of a wide open Tony Ellison in the end zone. Instead of a touchdown, the Wildcats settled for a field goal. It didn’t help that Dawkins also coughed up the football twice, one of which led to a safety.
Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez shuffled quarterbacks starting in the late stages of the third quarter as sophomore Khalil Tate entered the game for Arizona, down by six points. Tate initially sparked the offense into gear and led the team down for a quick field goal. But later, Tate forced a pass that was picked off in the game’s final minutes. When Arizona got the ball back with 2:16 to go, Dawkins was sent back out and faced a series of booes from Wildcat fans after the offense went four and out.
Rodriguez noted that Dawkins was “nicked up” and Tate was “a little sore” at different points in the game, using that as his justification for the unorthodox rotation. With two quarterbacks less than 100% going into a short week, Rich Rod may have to get freshmen Rhett Rodriguez and Donavan Tate prepared to play.
Defense Steps Up
Arizona might have lost, but the defense deserves credit for keeping the game competitive. On the second drive of the game, Cougars’ quarterback Kyle Allen marched Houston right down the field deep into Wildcat territory. But the UA defense came up with a goal line stop to force a Cougar field goal.
That proved to be the tone setter for the Wildcats as they held the Houston team that averaged over 35 points per game in 2016 to just 19 points on Saturday. It’s the fewest points Marcel Yates’ unit has allowed since the 2016 season opener against BYU (18).
The defense allowed just 383 yards of total offense and even came away with two interceptions.
“The defense gave the offense a lot of opportunities to win the game, and the offense didn’t execute well enough,” Rodriguez said.
“Heat of the Moment”
99 times out of 100, forcing a turnover is a good thing. But that other one time happened in third quarter when UA safety Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles intercepted Kyle Allen at the 3-yard line on a fourth down play. Had Flannigan-Fowles simply knocked it down, Arizona would have taken over on its own 31 yard line. Instead, the Wildcats found themselves backed-up in their own end zone and the very next play was a fumble by Dawkins that resulted in a safety.
“It was just the heat of the moment,” Flannigan-Fowles said. “The ball was kind of floating in the air. If something like that happens again, I’m going to bat it down.”
A Significant Victory
After dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey for the last two weeks, Houston head coach Major Applewhite knows his first win as a head coach extends beyond the gridiron.
“It was a great win for our program, a great win for our players and a great win for our city,” Applewhite said. “I’m proud of our players because they’ve been through a lot.”
Arizona will have a short week of preparation as they get set to take on UTEP in El Paso, Texas on Friday night.
Kick-off is set for 7:15 p.m. and will be broadcasted on ESPN.
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