STANFORD, Calif. — The Arizona Wildcats’ return to relevance was on the fast track for most of today’s game. The UA dictated tempo, scored points and gobbled up yards at a breakneck pace.
Then, with 6 minutes remaining in regulation, the 18th-ranked Cardinal showed up. Quarterback Josh Nunes scored ran for two fourth-quarter touchdowns and Stepfan Taylor rushed in an overtime score to give Stanford a 54-48 win over the UA at Stanford Stadium.
It was a heartbreaking finish to a game that felt like Arizona's from the start. Though the Wildcats and Cardinal both finished with the same amount of yards — 617 — the game was Arizona's to lose.
Then they lost it.
“One play could have made a difference. Maybe one call could have gone our way, one catch, one stop,” UA quarterback Matt Scott said. “There’s so many factors that play into it …
“It’s just hard.”
Taylor’s scamper came after Scott committed the first turnover on a record-breaking day. Chase Thomas intercepted a tipped Scott pass, giving the Cardinal the ball in overtime with a chance to win it.
"It was just batted," said Scott, who set program records for completions (45) and attempts (69), and threw for 491 yards.
But Nunes, a first-year starter, outplayed him late.
Stanford scored twice in the final 6 minutes 32 seconds to force overtime. Both came on option runs by Nunes: His 1-yard dive made it a one-score game late. After forcing Arizona to punt, Stanford drove and tied the game. Nunes’ 3-yard run evened it up. The quarterback extended the drive a few plays later, finding tight end Zach Ertz for a 16-yard completion on fourth-and-8. The play moved the ball to Arizona’s 3.
The 14-play, 79-yard drive ran 4 minutes 58 seconds off the clock and left the UA precious little time to try to win it in regulation. Carey ran the ball twice, and Arizona let the clock run out.
UA coach Rich Rodriguez said he “didn’t like where we were at, and you don’t want to make a mistake down there.”
"We had a couple dropped interceptions that probably would have made a big difference for us," he said.
Arizona’s offense had the ball to start overtime, and quickly gained a first down. Scott then threw incomplete on first and seconds downs; his third-down attempt was tipped at the line and intercepted by Thomas.
"Spur" safety Tra'Mayne Bondurant said the Wildcats "fought all game long"; they just came up one stop and one play short.
"A couple of mistakes got us," he said.
Arizona (3-3 overall, 0-3 Pac-12) will take a bye this week, then face Washington in Tucson. Stanford improves to 4-1, 2-1.
Read more in Sunday's Arizona Daily Star.