Five Things We Learned From Arizona’s Improbable Win over Cal

The Arizona Wildcats moved to 4-0 (1-0) on the season with a thrilling 49-45 win over the California Golden Bears from Tucson on Saturday night in Tucson. Here are five things we learned from the game.

Hill Mary: They actually can work once in a while. With Four seconds left and the Wildcats were down by two, Anu Solomon threw his 73rd pass of the night in the form of a Hail Mary to the back corner of the north endzone. Coming down with it with no time left on the clock was Austin Hill and the Wildcats walked away with the once improbable win. It capped off a 36 point fourth quarter for the Wildcats to come back and win after being down 31-13 at one point in the third. The highlight of the play can be seen above via Arizona Athletics.

“Winning on a Hail Mary is so improbable,” Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez said. “At first, you’re exhilarated, and then you’re thinking, ‘How did that just happen?’ I’m so happy for Austin Hill. I’m happy for Anu, who was off, but kept battling and executed the last play. I’m happy for the people who stayed and watched the game. It’s a good day to be an Arizona Wildcat.”

“There’s nothing like a Hail Mary to finish the game because it requires the defense giving 110% throughout the game and the offense to execute the final play so it’s great to finish the game like that,” added Hill after the game.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been in a game like that. It’s so painful, but we have to get through it,” mentioned Cal quarterback Jared Goff. “I am proud of all the guys on how we played throughout the game. Coach (Sonny) Dykes told us that we played really well throughout the whole game. We played tough for 59 minutes and 56 seconds and unfortunately it was not enough. They made halftime adjustments and nothing really changed with us. We had a little bit more pressure, but it shouldn’t have affected us as much as it probably did.”

Go to Guy: This may not be something new but it has never been more evident that the go to guy for Solomon on the outside is Cayleb Jones. The transfer from Texas is already off to a very good start this season but he had his best game as a Wildcat on Saturday. He had 13 catches for 186 yards and three touchdowns which are all career highs and he went above 100 yards receiving for the third-consecutive game. Jones’ 13 catches rank on second on Arizona’s record list for a single game and his 186 yards are the 12th-best single-game performance in program history.

Run to Success: The story of the Wildcats through the first three games of the season has been the incredible play of Nick Wilson and the rushing attack. It had been crucial for Anu Solomon being a redshirt freshman getting experience under his belt. Saturday against Cal, the Wildcats ran for a total of 107 rushing yards with Solomon leading the way with a team high 46. While Wilson ran for just 33 on 11 carries. It snaps the 25 consecutive games for the Wildcats to have a 100 yard rusher in a game which was a program best since moving to the Pac-10/12. This was the first time we have seen Solomon have to get it done with his arm and it wasn’t always pretty. I cannot see the Wildcats winning all of their games in 2014 if Solomon has to throw the ball 70+ times and Wilson carries the ball 11 times or less.

Welcome Back: The value and importance of Tra’Mayne Bondurant. A guy who was almost no longer a part of the program after dealing with some off the field issues over the summer which had his future with the Wildcats in question. Once brought back as a member of the team, Saturday was the most we have seen him on the field and his presence was most definitely felt. He had seven tackles, including 1.5 for loss, also coming up with a critical interception down the stretch. He also made a great play on the Wildcats’ onside kick after the team cut the Cal lead to eight in the fourth quarter. He is arguably the most explosive and athletic player on the Wildcats defense. A defense that for lack of a better word, was exposed by Jared Goff and the Bears, especially in the first half. The Wildcats defense give up 573 total yards and dug themselves in a hole early. But made enough plays in the fourth led by Bondourant and linebacker Scooby Wright’s career high 18 tackles. 

Smiling at Adversity: The Wildcats have now won three consecutive games by one possession. At this point of the season before the meat of the Pac-12 schedule hits, dealing with adversity like they have seen to this point cannot be taught. The Wildcats can do themselves some favors by not coming through lulls like we have seen them have like in the first half of the Cal game or the second quarter of the UTSA game, but they have proven they can fight through it. There will come a point where they will have to play a complete game start to finish. A good start for a game like that will be their next game on Thursday, October 2nd at an Oregon team that without a doubt will be looking for revenge for what happened at Arizona Stadium last year.

“We didn’t execute well and we were just kind of in a funk,” Rodriguez said. “There wasn’t any panic at halftime. We’re in shape. I told the guys before the game that we are going to play 60 minutes.”

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