TUCSON — UA’s roller coaster of a game against ASU crashed to a disastrous end in the fourth quarter.
The No. 24 Wildcats (7-5, 4-5 Pac-12) went into the final period up 10 points. Then a punt block by senior safety Kevin Ayers and an interception by junior cornerback Robert Nelson resulted in two ASU (7-5, 5-4 Pac-12) touchdowns, and the Wildcats lost to their rival at home 41-34.
“I’m disappointed we lost,” coach Rich Rodriguez said. “I love our kids and I’m really proud of our seniors. But, I’m disappointed we lost and the kids are too, I’m sure. Our guys competed hard.”
The two huge ASU momentum swings were not just a special aspect of the fourth quarter. They were happening the entire game.
UA controlled the first quarter. ASU was winning at half. UA dominated the third. And then the Wildcats lost it in the fourth.
The lead changes were due to the fact both teams turned the ball over. ASU ended the night with two turnover and UA committed.
A back-and-forth battle that goes down to the wire should be expected in each Territorial Cup game.
“This was a high energy game,” junior defensive tackle Tevin Hood said. “I didn’t expect any different. There was a lot of momentum shifts and it really played a big part in the game.”
Many of UA woes and turnovers came from the Wildcat passing game led by quarterback Matt Scott.
Scott did not finish his last home game as a Wildcat the way he wanted. He threw picks in the game to set ASU for some points.
Despite the rough night, Rodriguez is standing by his senior signal-caller.
“There are some I’m sure he’d like to have back,” Rodriguez said. “But he’s a stud. I told him in the locker room that I loved him. I’m proud of the way he’s played in every game this year. They just did a good job of getting pressure on us.”
The support for Scott also came from the players. Receiver Austin Hill said he feels for Scott because it was his last game at home.
He also took some credit for the passing troubles.
“It was our fault as a receiving corps. We were making things kind of wild for Matt,” Hill said. “Our timing really wasn’t working out for us. I think the run game was working but without any pass we couldn’t really get anything going.”
The run was working for the Wildcats.
When UA had the lead, it was because sophomore running back Ka’Deem Carey was dominating the game. Carey torched the ASU defense for 172 yards and 1 touchdown. It was almost a guarantee that Carey was going to get the secondary level on any run.
Even when Carey sat out for most of the third quarter, backup running back Daniel Jenkins had 71 yards. Rodriguez said Carey has been fighting injuries.
“He was banged up before the game,” Rodriguez said. “Then he got banged up even more during the game. He played hard, though. Daniel Jenkins played really well too.”
The UA football team has a policy where they forget about a lost as quickly as they can and focus on their next opponent within 24 hours.
Unfortunately, they will not know who or when they will face their next opponent. Hood said it does not matter since they now have to focus on their bowl game.
“We can’t let losses define us. The 24-hour rule still applies to us even in a loss,” Hood said.
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