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Arizona vs. Houston final score: Wildcats’ comeback bid falls short vs. Cougars

Arizona used two quarterbacks to try to spark the offense, but neither came through in the clutch

NCAA Football: Houston at Arizona Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona Wildcats’ comeback bid fell short against the Houston Cougars on Saturday, as Houston narrowly escaped with a 19-16 victory at Arizona Stadium.

The Wildcats used both Brandon Dawkins and Khalil Tate at quarterback in the fourth quarter as they tried to erase the three-point deficit, but neither were able to get UA’s offense over the hump.

Dawkins was maddeningly inconsistent, going 17-29 for 178 yards (plus 26 rushing yards on 13 carries), while Tate was 5-8 for 41 yards with 24 rushing yards.

Tate entered the game early in the fourth quarter, as head coach Rich Rodriguez said Dawkins was “a little nicked up,” though Dawkins re-entered for UA’s final drive of the game.

Arizona’s defense performed rather admirably, holding Houston to 383 yards and forcing two turnovers, thanks to interceptions by Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles and Lorenzo Burns.

Houston quarterback Kyle Allen was 25-32 for 225 yards and a touchdown. Neither team ran the ball particularly well. UH averaged 4.3 yards per carry, while Arizona was at 3.9.

J.J. Taylor’s elusiveness was on display, running for a game-high 87 yards on 17 carries.

Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver had 11 tackles. Arizona true freshmen Tony Fields II and Scottie Young Jr. had 11 and 7 tackles, respectively.

Arizona and Houston were tied 3-3 at the end of the first quarter, but Houston took a 17-10 lead going into halftime.

The Cougars got a safety to make it 19-10 early in the third quarter after Dawkins mishandled a snap in the end zone, which was followed by a 21-yard field goal by Josh Pollack.

Pollack added a 42-yard field goal with 8:32 left in the fourth, which were the final points of the game.

Arizona falls to 1-1 while Houston improves to 1-0. The Wildcats head to El Paso next weekend to take on the UTEP Miners.

Here’s a more detailed look at how the game unfolded:

First half

Arizona won the toss and deferred, and both teams traded three-and-outs to begin the game.

Houston’s offense drove the field on its second drive thanks to a couple nice throws by Kyle Allen and a 33-yard run by Dillon Birden.

Houston got all the way to the UA goal line, but Dane Cruikshank (shortly after throwing up on the field) took down Allen for a loss on a keeper, and forced a fumble, which the Cougars were fortunate enough to recover at their own eight-yard line.

Allen’s third-down pass would be incomplete from there, and Caden Novikoff made a 25-yard field goal to give Houston an early 3-0 lead.

Arizona went 3-and-out on its next drive, but eventually tied the game with a 45-yard field goal.

Dawkins, who had several overthrows down the field, connected on a 16-yard pass to Shawn Poindexter then a 13-yard pass to Tyrell Johnson in between a few J.J. Taylor runs to put UA in field goal range.

Then on 3rd and 8 at the Houston 33, Dawkins found Cam Denson for five yards on a bubble screen to set up the Pollack field goal.

Arizona put together another good drive after Dawkins connected with Shun Brown for a 35-yard gain (plus a 15-yard penalty), but Pollack missed a 30-yard field goal. It appeared there was a bad snap or hold, which makes sense since UA long snapper Nick Reinhardt did not play.

Houston took over its own 20 and Linell Bonner completed an eight-play, 80-yard drive with a five-yard touchdown pass from Allen.

Allen was 15-20 for 185 yards and a touchdown in the first half, as UA had trouble generating much pressure on him.

After Bonner’s TD, Arizona had an eight-play, 75-yard drive to knot things at 10-10.

Taylor juked a few defenders on a 27-yard reverse, then ran for 17 yards to put Arizona at the Houston 21. Two plays later, a Dawkins throw to the endzone drew pass interference, putting Arizona at Houston’s 4-yard line.

Zach Green ran for three yards then a one-yard touchdown to tie the game with 2:22 left in the half.

However, Arizona , returning the ensuing kickoff for 81 yards, setting up an eventual three-yard rushing touchdown for Birden — a huge turn of events for Arizona.

Houston outgained Arizona 254-183 in the first half as it took a 17-10 lead to the locker room.

Second half

Arizona started the second half with good field position after Houston committed a 15-yard penalty on Tyrell Johnson’s 23-yard return.

The Wildcats looked to have a promising drive going — Dawkins connected to Bryce Wolma for eight yards then Taylor and Dawkins rushed for 11 and 12 yards, respectively — but Ed Oliver forced Dawkins to fumble, and Houston recovered at its own 29-yard line.

Houston drove into UA territory, but on 4th and 5, an errant throw by Allen was intercepted by Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles at the UA 8 — Flannigan-Fowles’ third interception of the season.

Flannigan-Fowles said he should have batted the ball down to give UA better field position.

Nonetheless, the UA gave the ball right back, as Dawkins mishandled the snap on the next play, which resulted in a safety and increased Houston’s lead to 19-10.

UA would get a stop, then have a 16-play, 82-yard drive that resulted in a 21-yard field goal for Pollack to make it 19-13 with just under two minutes left in the third quarter.

The Wildcats should’ve had six, though. Dawkins connected with Poindexter for a 30-yard touchdown which was called back after it was ruled Poindexter didn’t control the ball all the way through the catch process.

Dawkins then overthrew a wide open Tony Ellison in the corner of the end zone later in the drive, forcing UA to settle for a short field goal.

UA’s defense would force another punt, giving the Wildcats the ball back with 13:40 down 19-13.

Arizona went 3-and-out after three passes by Dawkins (two incomplete). Houston took over at its own 44 with 12:45 left, but Lorenzo Burns would intercept Allen near midfield.

Tate surprisingly entered the game for Dawkins, and he immediately bulldozed a defender for a key third down conversion.

A holding penalty pushed UA back, but Tate threw for a long gain, then Dawkins re-entered (to a smattering of boos) to run for a short first down at the UH 29.

Tate came back in (yes, this was a weird drive) and threw behind Ellison on third down to set up a 42-yard field goal for Pollack to make it 19-16 with 8:32 left.

Arizona had two more chances — with two different quarterbacks — to tie or take the lead after that, but both opportunities fell short.

Tate was intercepted at the Houston 20 with 3:49 left in the fourth, destroying a promising drive, then Dawkins failed to move Arizona past its own 20 after the defense forced a UH punt and touchback.