Reggie Williams (AP/Wily Low)
Tucson, Ariz. - Mike Bell broke through the Husky defense on touchdown runs of 69 and 37 yards in the fourth quarter to propel the Arizona Wildcats to a 27-22 upset over Washington this evening. Bell had three touchdowns and 226 yards of rushing in a Wildcat homecoming game that put a serious kink into any potential bowl plans Washington was entertaining.
The game was ugly from the end of the first quarter on. The Huskies rolled to an early lead and piled up big yards, but no points. And as has been the case all season, when Arizona struck back and adversity reared it’s ugly head, the Huskies were unable to fight through it.
Bell took advantage of poor tackling by the Washington defense and shredded the Husky secondary as defenders took poor angles and were in wrong gaps throughout the second half.
Gilbertson called it “an embarrassing performance” by his Husky team.
Cody Pickett finished the game 31 for 51 for 351 yards and two touchdowns, but a fourth quarter fumble was crucial in providing Arizona the spark they needed to put the game away. After the turnover, Gilbertson admitted that he considered changing quarterbacks but stuck with Pickett and his senior nearly pulled it out of the fire.
Strangely, Arizona came into the game giving up huge chunks of yards on the ground, but the Huskies were only able to muster 127 rushing yards.
FIRST QUARTER: FLAGS KEEP IT CLOSE (UW 7, ARIZONA 6)
Washington drove the ball right from the opening bell, using Kenny James up the middle for big chunks of yards, but a personal foul penalty on Khalif Barnes stopped it in it’s tracks.
A 32-yard screen pass to fullback Zach Tuiasosopo got the Huskies going on the next drive. Pickett dumped it off to him under a heavy rush and he picked up key blocks from Todd Bachert, Khalif Barnes, and Reggie Williams and was off to the races down the Arizona sideline. James picked up nine yards around right end to convert a third down in the red zone. Pickett hit James for a 10-yard reception to set up first and goal on the Wildcat five. On second down, Pickett found FB Adam Seery all alone in the back of the end zone for six. Evan Knudson’s extra point put the Huskies on top 7-0 with 6:02 remaining in the quarter.
Arizona got even less than two minutes later. On second and five from the Wildcat 33, Mike Bell took a handoff and cut through the right side of the Husky defensive line. Owen Biddle came up to close but he was held up, and Jimmy Newell was crushed with a block at midfield as Bell ran down the sideline to complete a 67-yard touchdown run, the longest the Huskies had given up all year. The extra point never got off the ground as the holder never could handle the snap.
Again the Huskies marched right back. Shelton Sampson fumbled near midfield but Nick Newton alertly recovered to retain possession. Once again the penalty bug hit, as a false start penalty and an illegal formation penalty forced the Dawgs into a third and long. Pickett was sacked by Clifton Stanford and Washington punted.
Just before the quarter ended, Derrick Johnson picked off Kris Heavner just outside the Wildcat 20. Greg Carothers came on a blitz and belted the Arizona freshman just before he threw, and Johnson made a great break on the ball to make the theft.
The Huskies held the ball for nearly 11 minutes in racking up 176 yards of offense, by far their best quarter of the season.
SECOND QUARTER: THE GAME TURNS (UW 14, ARIZONA 13)
Shelton Sampson’s 1-yard touchdown run with 13:13 put the Dawgs on top by 8. Little did anyone know that it would be the last time the Huskies would find the end zone until late in the fourth quarter.
James Sims came up the middle to block Danny Baugher’s punt and recovered it at the Wildcat 25, however the Huskies weren’t able to capitalize. On first down, Pickett threw a beautiful fade to Corey Williams, but the freshman couldn’t make the catch. After two short gains, Washington called on Knudson to attempt a 34-yard field goal. He pulled it wide right.
The Huskies looked to have a good drive going before the half, as Pickett hit Charles Frederick for 29 yards on a tough over-the-shoulder catch at the boundary. Three plays later Frederick made a catch on a ball that was behind him, but when he attempted to turn up field at the Wildcat 25, DB Gary Love stripped the ball free. It rolled all the way back to midfield where Arizona recovered with just under two minutes remaining.
Heavner made a big play when he got away from Manase Hopoi and winged it deep down the field, where Mike Jefferson made the catch at the 10 for a 40-yard play. Heavner found Biren Ealey for the touchdown to cut the deficit to one at the break.
The Wildcats did a nice job in the quarter of shutting down the Husky offense in the quarter, and taking advantage of Husky mistakes. The middle of the field was still open to Washington but they just didn’t have the tight end or slot receiver to take advantage of it.
THIRD QUARTER: DOES ANYONE WANT TO WIN THIS GAME? (UW 14, ARIZONA 13)
The Wildcats opened up their offense early, as Heavner took advantage of a lot of time to throw and found Ricky Williams streaking behind Sam Cunningham. He delivered the ball on the money and Williams made the catch for a 52-yard gain, all the way down to the Husky 19. Washington stiffened and when Nick Folk hooked a 32-yard chip shot wide right, the Dawgs somehow still clung to the lead.
Charles Frederick had a 59-yard punt return for a touchdown nullified by a block in the back by Dre Simpson with just over a minute left in the quarter. Pickett hit Williams for 15 yards and Stanback for 10 as the quarter ended with the Huskies facing third and two on the Cats’ 42.
Washington struggled on offense, as they could only muster 51 yards and only had the ball just 6:00. Both teams looked poor in the stanza.
FOURTH QUARTER: ARIZONA ANSWERS THE BELL (ARIZONA 27, UW 22)
The first play of the final quarter found Sampson tackled for a two-yard loss as Nick Newton missed his block and allowed Marcus Smith to come in untouched. That was the drive killer, and Erickson’s punt resulted in a touchback.
A holding penalty on first down got the next Husky drive off to another bumpy start. Pickett found Lyon for 13, but another flag, this one a false start, moved the ball back once again. On third and long Pickett FINALLY found a receiver open down the middle, Isaiah Stanback, for 22 yards to move the chains. On third and six from the Wildcat 28, Pickett was sacked. Erickson pooched his next punt perfectly, netting 32 on the boot as B.J. Newberry made a great play to down it on the one. It should’ve been the turning point of the game.
Two plays later, Evan Benjamin tackled Bell in the end zone for a safety and it looked like the Huskies had the momentum for good.
On third and one from the Wildcat 31, Bell took a handoff in the backfield and broke through the Husky line and was never touched as the Husky safeties took poor angles. Bell went 69 yards for the touchdown to put the Wildcats on top by four with 7:28 remaining.
Washington drove back, as Pickett found Williams for 11 to convert a third and nine. A personal foul on Arizona moved the ball out to the Husky 42. On second down Pickett scrambled up the middle but the ball was knocked free by Joe Siofele and Michael Jolivette recovered on the Cats 48 with 5:37 left.
Washington then blinked hard, as Bell added a 37-yard touchdown run as the Husky defense appeared to have packed it in with 4:38 remaining. The extra point gave the Cats an 11-point lead.
Washington, to their credit, did not give up. Pickett found Stanback for a 41-yard play up the middle of the Wildcat defense to move the ball down to the four with 3:53 left. He then found Corey Williams two plays later for the score. Pickett was nailed short of the end zone on the two-point conversion to leave the score 27-22.
After a defensive stand, Washington took over at their own 38 with 2:42 remaining and one timeout. On first down Pickett scrambled away from a sure sack and hit Jordan Slye for 17 yards on a huge play. As the Huskies went inside the Wildcat 30, yet two more false start penalties moved them backwards.
Then came the biggest play of the ball game. On third and 15 on the 39, Williams was unbelievably only single covered. He got open by four yards on an out and up, but his senior quarterback missed him, and badly. The play would’ve been a sure touchdown.
Pickett’s fourth down attempt intended for Jon Lyon was knocked down by Lamon Means to preserve the win for the Wildcats, as their fans streamed onto the field and climbed the goal posts in celebration.