After Shawn Poindexter recovered an onside kick with 2:47 left, Brandon Dawkins took the field with a chance to be the hero on a night when so many things went awry.
Instead, the redshirt junior quarterback fumbled on the very next play, and the Arizona Wildcats lost 30-24 to the No. 23 Utah Utes on Friday night in front of 36,651 at Arizona Stadium (the lowest attendance number since 1997).
Dawkins had four turnovers on the night as Arizona’s offense, marred by miscues, squandered an admirable performance by the defense.
Even after the late fumble, Dawkins got another chance to lead Arizona to a comeback victory, but he was intercepted with 1:19 left, as Utah escaped with a road win, despite losing starting quarterback Tyler Huntley to a shoulder injury early in the game.
Dawkins finished 24-42 for 248 yards with two touchdowns (one rushing), three interceptions, and 90 rushing yards.
Arizona’s rushing attack was mostly stymied by a Utah defense that was without star defensive end Kylie Fitts for most of the game.
Nick Wilson had just 45 yards on 13 carries, while J.J. Taylor had 10 carries for 43 yards.
Still, Arizona outgained Utah 448-341, and only trailed by three in the third quarter, then Dawkins threw a pick-6 out of his own end zone to extend Utah’s lead 27-17.
Then at the start of the fourth quarter, Dawkins rolled right on fourth down in Utah territory and didn’t see a wide open Trevor Wood down the middle for what would’ve been an easy touchdown, throwing an incomplete pass to right instead.
Dawkins wasn’t the only Wildcat that made costly errors, though.
Later in the fourth, Dawkins threw an accurate ball to Nick Wilson on a wheel route, but the running back, with nobody near him, dropped the sure-touchdown.
On the very next play, Utah blocked Lucas Havrisik’s 47-yard field goal attempt — the Utes’ second block of the game (their first block came on a 42-yard attempt by Josh Pollack just before halftime).
Oh yeah, J.J. Taylor fumbled at the Utah 10-yard line in the third quarter, too, taking more Arizona points off the board.
A shame, considering Arizona’s young defense did enough to win the game. Utah was limited to 341 yards, while the Wildcats forced two turnovers.
Senior Troy Williams replaced Huntley with roughly nine minutes left in the second quarter as Utah nursed a 10-3 lead, and finished 9 for 18 for 131 yards and a rushing touchdown.
Williams’ first play from scrimmage was a 40-yard laser to Darren Carrington but the Utes were held to a short field goal to make it 13-3 Utah.
While Williams wasn’t as effective as Huntley, who was 8 for 9 for 98 yards and a touchdown before exiting, he didn’t have to be.
Dawkins did find some rhythm in the second quarter, capping off an 11-play, 75-yard drive with a one-yard rushing touchdown to make it a 13-10 game at halftime.
But Williams ran for a one-yard touchdown to open the third quarter to extend Utah’s lead to 20-10.
Arizona cut it to 20-17 on a seven-yard rushing touchdown by J.J. Taylor in the third, then UA’s defense got a stop, but Dawkins immediately threw a pick-six, allowing Utah to take a double-digit lead.
Matt Gay made a 30-yard field goal to put Utah up 30-17 with 4:58 left, and Arizona answered, as Dawkins threw a 30-yard touchdown to Tony Ellison before UA recovered the onside kick.
Arizona falls to 2-2 and has a bye week next week.
What’s up(back) with that?
Utah gave Arizona a chance to score just before end of the first half after an errant snap hit an upback on a punt, putting UA at Utah’s 26 with a few ticks left.
Unfortunately for the Wildcats, Pollack’s 43-yard field goal was blocked as time expired.
Another special teams error: Utah returned a punt for 48 yards to the UA 28-yard line, which led to a 41-yard field goal that put the Utes up 10-3 late in the first quarter.
Utah safety Marquise Blair was ejected for targeting after a big hit to the head on Dawkins in the third quarter.
Taylor scored on a 7-yard touchdown run soon after to make it a 20-17, and Blair apparently had something to say to Arizona fans as he headed to the locker room.
Per @TheDean1580, Marquise Blair was shouting at UA fans as he left after being ejected. UA scored right as he walked into the locker room.— Shane Dale (@ShaneDaleABC15) September 23, 2017
Dawkins’ first interception
After Utah took a 20-10 lead on Williams’ rushing touchdown, Dawkins threw his first interception of the season on the ensuing drive.
He was drilled as he released the ball, and his pass was tipped then intercepted by the Utah secondary.
While Dawkins was hit, there really wasn’t a receiver in the area.
Early on, Arizona’s cornerbacks were giving Utah plenty of cushion and the Utes took advantage.
Utah averaged 13.4 yards per completion and Huntley was carving Arizona up before his injury.
Man they tripping they can play @Willtakher_Jace press man all game best CB let him ball!— Paul Magloire (@P_MAGLOIRE) September 23, 2017
True freshmen shine
Arizona’s true freshmen were a definite bright spot in this game. Here are some stats:
- Defensive lineman Kylan Wilborn had another forced fumble
- Linebacker Colin Schooler had a team-high eight tackles, including two for a loss.
- Linebacker Tony Fields II had six tackes, a sack, and recovered the fumble that Wilborn forced.
- Safety Scottie Young Jr. had six tackles.
Wilborn’s forced fumble in the first quarter ended a Utah drive that looked sure to put points on the board.
Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter at @RKelapire