Wildcats rue their 15 minutes of shame

2010-12-05T00:00:00Z 2012-11-30T19:33:05Z Wildcats rue their 15 minutes of shameRyan Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
December 05, 2010 12:00 am  • 

It's easy to blame place-kicker Alex Zendejas for the Arizona Wildcats' 30-29 loss to rival Arizona State.

Look deeper though, and you'll see that Arizona's Territorial Cup heartbreaker was a team effort.

In Thursday's fourth quarter alone, Arizona's offense turned the ball over with a fumble and missed on a fourth-and-one conversion. The defense blew an eight-point lead.

And the Wildcats' special teams … well, their performance has been well documented.

ASU blocked a Zendejas point-after attempt, a kick that likely would have secured a 21-20 win, with 27 seconds remaining.

Though the UA's junior kicker wasn't made available to reporters following the game, his teammates were quick to shoulder much of the blame for the crushing defeat. Arizona (7-5 overall, 4-5 Pac-10) finished its regular season with four consecutive losses; the Wildcats will learn their bowl fate today.

"We win together and we lose together," wide receiver David Douglas said. "Football is such a team sport. You just can't pinpoint it on anything or anybody. Zendejas has kicked well all season."

Here's how Arizona's offense, defense and, yes, special teams all contributed to a disastrous fourth quarter:

12:45 remaining: Arizona is leading Arizona State 14-9 and driving when, on second-and-two, tailback Greg Nwoko fumbles at ASU's 49-yard line. ASU's Oliver Aaron recovers, giving the Sun Devils the ball at midfield.

"We missed some plays on offense during the game that could have changed it," quarterback Nick Foles said.

ASU quarterback Brock Osweiler takes advantage of Arizona's mistake, driving the Sun Devils 51 yards in 12 plays to take the lead. His 3-yard pass to Mike Willie and a two-point conversion pass to Kerry Taylor give Arizona State a 17-14 lead with 7:09 remaining.

Osweiler was steady in his second career start, completing 22 of 49 passes for 267 yards and a touchdown. Arizona defenders dropped four Osweiler passes that easily could have been interceptions.

"We just didn't capitalize on our opportunities," safety Joe Perkins said.

5:55 remaining: Arizona coach Mike Stoops opts to go for it on fourth-and-one from his own 29-yard line - a decision that dooms the Wildcats when Keola Antolin is stuffed by linebacker Colin Parker at the line of scrimmage.

"I thought we could get a yard, or that we could hold them to a field goal and still win the game," Stoops said. "I felt it was the right thing to do."

Stoops' hunch is right. The Wildcats hold Arizona State to a field goal, making it a six-point game with 2:59 remaining.

0:27 remaining: Foles finds wide receiver Douglas for a 5-yard touchdown pass, tying the game. Zendejas runs onto the field to win it, but his PAT is blocked by a leaping James Brooks.

Brooks, a 6-foot-5-inch defensive end who's a designated "jumper" on special teams, said he expected the kick to be low - and it was.

"We watched tapes all week … and saw it started low, so we knew if we really pushed it and jumped it, it was a possibility to block the kick," he said.

The blocked PAT sent the game into overtime.

What happened next barely needs rehashing. Defensive end Ricky Elmore said the finish was a nightmare scenario - and not just for the kicker.

"Everything that could have gone wrong for us did go wrong," he said.


• What: Bowl selection show

• When: 7 p.m.



The Arizona Wildcats could be headed to their second consecutive Holiday Bowl after Washington defeated rival Washington State 35-28 Saturday night in Pullman, Wash.

Bowl pairings will be announced tonight at 7 on the Bowl Championship Series selection show.

The Alamo Bowl is expected to select Washington (6-6) to face the Big 12 Conference's No. 3 team Dec. 29 in San Antonio. If that happens, Arizona - which finished its regular season 7-5 but lost its final four games - will fall to the Holiday Bowl. The Dec. 30 game pits the Pac-10's No. 2 non-BCS selection against the Big 12's No. 5.

Arizona has played in two Holiday Bowls in its history, both against Nebraska. Arizona won in 1998, but was shut out 33-0 a year ago.

Holiday Bowl executive director Bruce Binkowski said Friday that he was comfortable taking either Washington or Arizona. The Alamo Bowl will have the first choice.

Ryan Finley

Copyright 2015 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Pac-12 South football standings

  Conference Overall
Arizona 7 2 0 0.778 10 4 0 0.714
USC 6 3 0 0.667 9 4 0 0.692
UCLA 6 3 0 0.667 10 3 0 0.769
Arizona State 6 3 0 0.667 10 3 0 0.769
Utah 5 4 0 0.556 9 4 0 0.692
Colorado 0 9 0 0.000 2 10 0 0.167

Pac-12 North football standings

  Conference Overall
Oregon 8 1 0 0.889 13 2 0 0.867
Stanford 5 4 0 0.556 8 5 0 0.615
Washington 4 5 0 0.444 8 6 0 0.571
Cal 3 6 0 0.333 5 7 0 0.417
Washington State 2 7 0 0.222 3 9 0 0.250
Oregon State 2 7 0 0.222 5 7 0 0.417
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