Mistakes cost UT in season opener
The first time the Rockets faced Rich Rodriguez, some bizarre things transpired in the later stages.
History repeated itself Saturday, except this time Rodriguez walked away victorious after a wild 24-17 overtime win.
“I was so proud because our kids played so hard,” said UT head coach Matt Campbell. “Give a lot of credit to Arizona and their kids and their staff. I think it’s just a matter of us cleaning up and Toledo taking care of what Toledo does.”
With the game tied at 17, Arizona (1-0) started a drive at their own 20-yard line with 4:43 remaining in regulation. Senior quarterback Matt Scott moved the ball with ease against a Toledo defense that appeared to be overmatched all night, moving the chains on five consecutive plays at one point.
As the Wildcats crept closer to the goal line, they started to take as much time as possible off the clock.
On second and goal, Scott took the snap and fell down right in the middle of the hash marks, setting up a 25-yard chip shot for kicker John Bonano.
With no timeouts left, Toledo (0-1) could only watch as Arizona ran the clock down to two seconds before calling their final timeout to set the stage.
The field goal attempt was nothing more than an extra point, but a bad snap and hold caused Bonano to shank it badly to the left, his second miss of the night from inside 30 yards.
The Wildcats possessed the ball first and UT’s defense forced them into a 3rd and goal from the 10 and appeared to have come up with a huge defensive stand.
Senior defensive tackle Danny Farr chased Scott all the way to the right sidelines and had a firm grasp of his jersey. Farr threw back across his body, letting go of the ball milliseconds before being pulled to the ground and found an open Terrence Miller for a touchdown.
The Rockets had a chance to respond, but nothing went according to plan in their overtime series.
On the first play, senior quarterback Austin Dantin found an alley only to trip over his own feet. It wound up as a seven-yard gain, but he may have taken it all the way into the end zone had he remained upright.
An illegal procedure and delay of game penalty forced UT into a 3rd and 20 from the 23. An incompletion brought up a decisive 4th and 20, but all Dantin could do was heave one into the end zone.
None of his receivers appeared to be open and the ball fell to the ground, ending the hopes of knocking off a Pacific-12 Conference team on the road.
“It was just execution,” Campbell said. “A couple little things here and there we just have to clean up offensively. The noise was a little bit of a factor. We have to make sure we do a better job next week.”
Trailing 3-0 in the second quarter, the Rockets took the lead when junior quarterback Terrance Owens threw a pass to wideout Alonzo Russell 59 yards down the sidelines for a 7-3 lead.
Owens finished the night 11-of-22, passing for 134 yards and a score. Dantin played the first two possessions, but Owens finished out the first half.
The Wildcats came right back with the help of several big pass plays, something UT struggled with all game.
Scott found senior Dan Buckner for plays of 21 and 22 yards before finding sophomore Austin Hill for a 30-yard touchdown strike.
Hill got behind the entire Toledo secondary and made a tremendous diving catch in the end zone.
Scott put on a clinic, completing 30-of-46 passes for 384 yards and two touchdowns. Hill had a game-high 136 receiving yards on seven catches.
“We knew he could throw and he showed he can definitely do that,” Campbell said.
Arizona had a chance to add on before halftime, but Hill lost the ball as he stumbled after a nice catch-and-run into Toledo territory.
Arizona’s three turnovers — including one in the red zone — and many untimely penalties allowed the Rockets to stay within striking distance all night.
UT struggled to find the right formula offensively in the second half, scoring just three points.
“It’s tough, the first game of the year, you want to go out there and play great,” Dantin said. “Arizona played their heart out, as did we, but we came up a few plays too little.”
Campbell stuck with Owens into the third quarter until he lost a fumble at his own 32. Dantin replaced him for the rest of the game after sitting on the bench since the team’s second series.
“I felt good [after sitting so long],” Dantin said. “T.O. did a good job when he was in there. We’ve done it for so long now that it’s really just second nature. We left a couple plays out there that obviously cost us the game.”
Campbell said he wanted more of run presence at quarterback, so he kept Dantin in for the majority of the second half.
“They were blitzing us a lot and giving us a lot of man pressure,” Campbell said. “I thought some quarterback run game might loosen things up for us and get us going.”12
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