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Hot, cold and wild

Cats make outlasting impression after seeing 20-point lead vanish

  • Updated
Arizona vs Iowa
Arizona head coach Mike Stoops is carried off the field by Ricky Elmore after Elmore and the defense stopped Iowa on fourth down with about 90 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter and leading 34-27.

There's a word for what the Arizona Wildcats did in the fourth quarter of Saturday's 34-27 win over No. 9 Iowa at a sold-out Arizona Stadium.

Actually, there are four.

"Those are character-building drives," UA coach Mike Stoops said late Saturday night. "Those are perception drives. Those are program drives."

Bug Wright caught a 4-yard touchdown pass from Nick Foles with 3 minutes 57 seconds remaining to give No. 24 UA a wild victory. The Wildcats, desperately in need of a "program win" following last year's Holiday Bowl loss to Nebraska, dispatched their Big Ten Conference opponent despite blowing a 20-point halftime lead.

The Foles-to-Wright connection capped a 9-play, 72-yard drive and put an exclamation point on a game that included a blocked punt, a blocked extra-point attempt, a 100-yard kickoff return and two interceptions returned for touchdowns. For Wright, it was redemption; the receiver/return man fumbled a punt with 9 minutes remaining in the game, setting up a Hawkeyes touchdown.

With Arizona (3-0) driving late, Wright dropped a pass in the end zone. One play later, he won the game. Stoops said he was thrilled with Wright, even though he was "kind of losing my patience with him the fourth quarter."

Foles kept the faith.

He completed 28 of 39 passes for 303 yards and two scores. He spread the ball to 11 different receivers over the course of the game, and found new options when standout Juron Criner went down before halftime with turf toe.

With the game on the line, Foles delivered.

"There's no reason not to be confident with Foles," left tackle Adam Grant said. "I've never seen a player like him. He's poised like none other."

Arizona's game-winning drive brought some relief to a nightmare second half. Iowa overcame a 20-point halftime deficit behind a flurry of takeaways. After recovering Wright's muffed punt, quarterback Ricky Stanzi connected with Marvin McNutt for an 18-yard touchdown that cut Arizona's lead to 6 points.

Seconds later, the Hawkeyes (2-1) pulled even. Defensive end Broderick Binns intercepted Foles at the line of scrimmage as he tried to throw downfield, rumbling 20 yards into the end zone for a score.

The Hawkeyes' chance to take the lead failed, however, when the Wildcats blocked the ensuing PAT.

Stoops called the block - neither the official scorer or the coach could name who did actually tipped it - "pretty significant for us."

"We weren't behind," he said, "and that helped our mindset."

Foles connected with David Roberts for a 38-yard gain on Arizona's first play, moving to Iowa's 34 with 7:45 remaining, and Arizona advanced to the 15 on a pass from Foles to David Douglas.

Douglas, Foles' best friend and roommate, got Arizona to the 6-yard line with a 15-yard reception.

The Wildcats ran for a short gain on first-and-goal from the 4. Foles missed Wright in the end zone on second down, bringing up a key third-and-goal. Wright flashed across the back of the end zone and Foles hit him, giving Arizona the lead.

"The plays that were made in the fourth quarter were pretty special," Stoops said.

Arizona's first quarter wasn't bad, either. The Wildcats scored two touchdowns in the first five minutes to take a 14-0 lead.

Iowa received to start the game, then went three-and-out on its first possession. Punter Ryan Donahue tried to get a punt off, but it was blocked by Arizona's David Roberts. Coming off the edge, Roberts knocked the ball out as soon as it came off the punter's foot; freshman Marquis Flowers recovered it on the Iowa 8-yard line.

Three plays later, Foles dumped the ball over the middle with Douglas making a diving catch in the end zone to give the Wildcats a 7-0 lead.

Iowa drove deep into Arizona's zone on its second possession before Trevin Wade swung the momentum back in the UA's favor. Stanzi threw to McNutt on third down; the ball glanced off the receiver's hands and into the air, where Wade grabbed it. The Cats' star cornerback streaked 85 yards down the sideline to give the UA a 14-0 lead.

Arizona took away Iowa's running attack all night, limiting the Hawkeyes to just 29 net yards. Stanzi was sacked six times, including four times in a row on his final possession. The Hawkeyes had the ball with a chance to tie late, but went four-and-out against a UA defense that seemed energized by the capacity crowd.

It was enough to make Stoops, a week-by-week coach, think about the big picture.

"We are a different team inside and out this year," the coach said. "We wanted to be re-establish our program. Our players are on the way up."

On StarNet: Read Ryan Finley's blog this week for a report card of Arizona's game against Iowa at

Up next

• What: California at Arizona

• When: 7 p.m. Saturday

• TV: Ch 58, FSAZ Plus

• Radio: 1290-AM, 107.5-FM, 990-AM (Spanish)

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