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With the game tied and less than a minute left in regulation, the Arizona Wildcats decided to run out the clock rather than attempt a score, and Rich Rodriguez was much criticized for it. Why'd he do it?
Arizona's defense couldn't make a play on third or fourth down conversions to save its life. The offense that had moved the ball so well couldn't eventually slipped up. But the talk about the Wildcats' 54-48 loss to the Stanford Cardinal on Saturday centered around one decision by Rich Rodriguez.
The game tied at 48 with less than a minute to play, Rodriguez decided to run out the clock with two Ka'Deem Carey rushes rather than take shots down the field. It was a long field at that, with UA on its own 18-yard line. He didn't take the risk, perhaps taking an even larger one by heading into overtime while playing on the road and with the Cardinal celebrating homecoming.
Stanford also had momentum shifted its way.
Of course, this is one of those 'what-if' scenarios. What if Matt Scott's pass hadn't been batted in the air and intercepted on the Wildcats' first touch in overtime? What if Arizona's defense had made one more play?
What we do know is this: Stanford's defense was playing back in that final minute of regulation. A deep ball was either going to be defended well or possibly picked off. Even if the Wildcats could hit some out routes, they'd still need to take shots down the field to gain one or two large chunks of yardage to set up a winning score. The chance of a field goal try was much greater than a touchdown, but John Bonano and his special teams unit hasn't done enough to show Rodriguez they could get the job done.
So Rodriguez did what he usually does. He went against convention.
On the road, the home crowd finally in the game and the home team beaming with confidence, he thought he'd take his underdog Wildcats to overtime.
Based on the instant reaction around this website on across the internet, people weren't happy about it. Anthony Gimino wrote that Rodriguez went against his bold personality, and it's definitely more than a solid argument.
But with a 0-3 losing streak, looking at the past won't do Arizona any good. While we can sit around and debate it -- and definitely, it's an interesting debate -- Rodriguez didn't appear to dwell on his decision, defending it afterward, wrote Gimino.
"Didn't like where we were at," Rodriguez said in his postgame press conference. "They were dropping everybody (in coverage). Don't want to make a mistake down there."
It didn't work out. Tough decisions sometimes don't. But Arizona fans can take solace in Arizona being in overtime with the No. 18 team in the nation. They can believe that this season still has meaning considering UA rolled up 618 yards.
While Rodriguez's decision to play for overtime was up for debate, the fact that Arizona is competitive is not.
What do you think? Do you see where Rodriguez was coming from?