STANFORD, Calif. - UA wide receiver Austin Hill stood on the visitor's sideline as the clock ran down - 5 minutes, 4 minutes 30 seconds, 4 minutes - and thought three simple words. They were his plea, his prayer.
One more play.
UA safety Tra'Mayne Bondurant screamed as Stanford lined up for a fourth-and-forever that could have decided the game. This is it, he thought.
One more play.
Quarterback Matt Scott's voice cracked as he tried to explain Saturday's 54-48 overtime loss to the 18th-ranked Cardinal.
The Arizona Wildcats would have - should have - pulled off the upset victory in front of 48,204 at Stanford Stadium. They were so close so many times to a possible season-defining win, to a resounding, nationally televised victory over the Pac-12's resident bully that Scott visibly winced as he said the words.
One more play.
"One play could have made a difference. Maybe one call could have gone our way, one catch, one stop," he said. "There's so many factors that play into it…
"It's just hard."
Stanford quarterback Josh Nunes scored on a pair of quarterback sneaks in the final seven minutes of regulation, allowing the Cardinal to erase a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit, and running back Stepfan Taylor ran in a 21-yard touchdown in overtime to hand the UA its second heartbreaking loss in as many weeks. The Wildcats (3-3 overall, 0-3 Pac-12) will have a bye this week, then take on Washington at home on Oct. 20.
Though first-year coach Rich Rodriguez has instituted a 24-hour rule to celebrate wins or lament losses, Saturday's loss is liable to linger. Though Arizona and Stanford finished with the exact number of yards - 617 - the game felt like it was the Wildcats' to lose.
Then they lost it.
"They made a play, and we didn't," Rodriguez said before packing up for a short-but-silent flight to Tucson. "Like I told the team, they ain't got nothin' to be ashamed of. They played their tails off. We needed to make one more play. We make one more play at any time in the fourth quarter, and we end up winning it."
The Wildcats certainly had their chances. Scott shredded Stanford's vaunted defense for most of Saturday, setting school records for most completions (45) and attempts (69) in a single game. Ka'Deem Carey posted 200 yards of total offense, and Hill caught 11 passes for 165 yards and two touchdowns.
Arizona dictated the tempo for most of the first three quarters, then seemingly put Stanford away early in the fourth. When Carey turned a draw play into an 8-yard touchdown run and the Wildcats converted a two-point conversion with 12:29 remaining, the upset alert was on.
Then Scott found Terrence Miller for a 10-yard touchdown to give the UA a 14-point lead with 9:13 remaining.
It was over. But then Stanford (4-1, 2-1) drove - and kept making plays.
"When you play a ranked team, they're going to fight back," Carey said. "That's why they're ranked."
The Cardinal went 154 yards in their final two scoring drives, converting on a pair of fourth downs that - had Arizona made a stop - would have ended the game.
"I put that on us, especially myself," UA linebacker Jake Fischer said.
Facing fourth-and-two and down a pair of touchdowns, Nunes hit tight end Levine Toilolo for a 19-yard gain that moved Stanford to Arizona's 1. The quarterback scored one play later, cutting the deficit to 48-41 with 6:34 remaining. Arizona went three-and-out on its next possession, giving Stanford the ball with a chance to tie.
Facing fourth-and-nine at Arizona's 20, the Cardinal used its final timeout and called another play for another tight end. Nunes hit Zach Ertz for a 17-yard gain, moving the team to Arizona's 3. Another sneak tied the game with 45 seconds remaining, enough time for the Wildcats to - conceivably - try to score before the end of regulation.
But Rodriguez called two run plays, and the game went to overtime. The coach said he "didn't like where we were at, and you don't want to make a mistake down there."
Arizona's mistake came soon enough.
Scott's pass on the fifth play of overtime was batted at the line, then intercepted by linebacker Chase Thomas. It was a rare mistake on a stellar afternoon: Scott threw for 491 yards and three scores and had the ball in his hands - either throwing it or running it - for 74 of the Wildcats' 103 plays. "It just got batted," Scott said.
The next few minutes were a blur. Stanford took over, ran a go-nowhere play, then Taylor gashed the game-winning touchdown.
That, Scott said, is what made Saturday so hard to stomach. One more stop, and the Wildcats win. One more chance, and maybe the overtime turnover doesn't happen.
One more play, and maybe everything changes.
"It's depressing not to come up with the win, but that's football," Scott said.
On StarNet: Read Ryan Finley's report card of the Arizona-Stanford game on his blog at azstarnet.com/finley and see more photos at azstarnet.com/gallery
• What: Washington at Arizona
• When: Oct. 20, time TBA
• TV: TBA
• Radio: 1290-AM, 107.5-FM, 990-AM (Spanish)