When Rich Rodriguez left Arizona Stadium very early Sunday morning, he wasn’t sure if he was going to watch the game film from his team’s 31-26 loss to UCLA right away, or after a few hours of sleep.
But he knew what was waiting for him when he did tune in.
“You lose by a touchdown, so how many plays are you going to watch on film tonight or tomorrow and say, ‘Jeez, that one play would have made a difference,’” Rodriguez said. “For us, that’s going to be the hard part of watching the film.”
Saturday night’s game against the Bruins lacked a lot of things, notably execution by the home team. But something it didn’t lack? Big plays.
From UCLA’s first offensive play of the game to Arizona’s last, game-changing plays dominated Saturday night’s affair.
“I’m going to watch the film and I’m going to either get madder or not as mad,” Rodriguez said. “I’ll still be mad, but it will be to a certain degree after I watch the film.”
Here’s a look at four plays we think changed Saturday’s game.
1. Ka’Deem Carey’s fumble
When it happened: 6:31 remaining in the third quarter.
What happened: Trailing 24-10, Arizona began a drive with 10:24 to play in the third at its own 22-yard line. The Wildcats worked the ball all the way down to UCLA’s 5-yard line and had a first-and-goal. Quarterback B.J. Denker handed off to Carey, who worked his way toward the end zone and tried to leap over the goal line for a score. Instead, while extending the ball, it was knocked out by UCLA’s Randall Goforth and recovered by Myles Jack for a touchback.
What happened next: The two teams traded punts and the UA didn’t score again until Jake Smith hit a 27-yard field goal later in the quarter to make it 24-13.
Quotable: “I’m very excited to play the game and I’m passionate when I run the ball. I’m just trying to get in the end zone. I just closed my eyes and took a leap; anything to help my team. The defense knocked the ball out and made a good play.” – Carey.
2. Myles Jack’s 66-yard touchdown run
When it happened: 10:46 remaining in the fourth quarter.
What happened: Faced with a third-and-1 from its own 34-yard line, the Bruins turned to their true freshman linebacker to make a play on offense. Leading 24-19, Jack took a handoff from quarterback Brett Hundley and sprinted down the UCLA sideline 66 yards for a touchdown. Arizona’s Jourdon Grandon and Shaq Richardson each had a shot at Jack, but neither could bring him down.
What happened next: The score by Jack proved to be huge because UCLA gave up a touchdown on the next drive, which made it 31-26 Bruins. Had the freshman not scored, UCLA could have been looking at a deficit for the first time since the first quarter.
Quotable: “We were trying to execute our game plan. They had their “heavy set” out there, so we just had to get off blocks and make a play, but we didn’t do that.” – UA safety Jared Tevis.
3. Carey stopped on fourth-and-1
When it happened: 7:23 remaining in the first quarter.
What happened: Trailing 7-3, Arizona marched down to UCLA’s 15-yard line. Faced with a fourth-and-1 after Daniel Jenkins gained one yard on third-and-2, the UA turned to Carey to get a yard, rather than call on Smith for a 32-yard field goal. Carey was stopped for a loss of one by Eric Kendricks.
What happened next: UCLA got the ball back and put together a 12-play, 84-yard scoring drive on its next possession that ended in a 15-yard touchdown run from Hundley to make it 14-3.
Quotable: “I love the play call and I love what we did. I just came up short and got up with a bad feeling. We’ll correct whatever it is and get it next time.” – Carey.
4. Denker’s interception on the UA’s final offensive play
When it happened: 1:57 remaining in the fourth quarter.
What happened: After two straight incompletions by Denker, Arizona had a fourth-and-7 from its own 15-yard line. The quarterback fired a desperation pass toward the sideline, but it was intercepted by UCLA’s Ishmael Adams to end the drive and keep the score at 31-26.
What happened next: UCLA took three straight knees and ran out the clock, icing the game. Had Denker completed the pass, Arizona would have had a fresh set of downs with just under two minutes remaining in the game.
Quotable: “We didn’t get the first first down. That’s what we need to get in a rhythm. I threw three bad passes and we lost the football game. They were asking for us to take the game and we couldn’t. Having the ball with the two-minute drill and no timeouts is more than a quarterback could ask for.” — Denker.
— Ka’Deem Carey is no longer the nation’s leading rusher. After gaining 149 yards on 28 carries, Carey’s per game average dropped to 152.6. Boston College’s Andre Williams rushed for 295 yards on 30 carries against New Mexico State to overtake Carey.
Williams is averaging 163.4 rushing yards per game to lead Carey.
Overall, Carey has 1,221 rushing yards on the season, which ranks fourth nationally behind Williams, Western Kentucky’s Antonio Andrews and Washington’s Bishop Sankey.
Carey is 250 yards away from breaking Trung Canidate’s school career rushing record of 3,824 yards.
— Rodriguez and his staff didn’t select an offensive or defensive player of the game following the loss. Punter Drew Riggleman was named the special teams player of the game.
— UCLA’s win over Arizona was the program’s first in Tucson since 2003. UA had beaten the Bruins here in 2005, 2007, 2009 and 2011.
— The Wildcats are now 0-2 against AP Top 25 teams this season.