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Poor second half dooms Arizona in loss to Washington

arizona-wildcats-washington-huskies-score-predictions-analysis-preview-experts-pac12-football-2020 Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

The second half had been mostly smiles and high fives for the Arizona Wildcats during the bulk of their four-game win streak. But that run is over after a disastrous final 30 minutes against the Washington Huskies on Saturday night, with the Huskies running away to a 51-27 victory before 47,933 fans at Arizona Stadium.

Washington outscored the Wildcats 38-10 in the second half, scoring on five of its first six possessions, going ahead for good early in the third quarter and never relinquishing the lead.

Four turnovers—which led to 20 Washington points—and an offensive line that couldn’t protect Khalil Tate were among the many stumbles on the night for Arizona, which fell to 4-2 overall and 2-1 in the Pac-12.

“You can’t play a team of that caliber and turn it over that many times,” coach Kevin Sumlin said. “We got outplayed, we got outcoached, and that’s something that we’ve got to handle.”

A fumble by receiver Jamarye Joiner on a screen pass midway through the third quarter allowed the Huskies (5-2, 2-2) to build a two-score lead at 27-17 thanks to a 4-yard touchdown run by Salvon Ahmed. Arizona never got closer than seven points after that, with Washington tacking on a trio of fourth-quarter TDs to pad the final margin.

Those TDs were the first Arizona had allowed in the fourth since Sept. 7 against NAU. The Wildcats entered the night having outscored their last three opponents 29-3 in the final period.

Washington gained 316 of its 450 yards in the second half.

“They were more disciplined in the second half,” junior safety Scottie Young Jr. said. “They were able to finish the game just by executing.”

Arizona led 17-13 at the half but it took Washington only 4:20 to get back in front, going 75 yards in 10 plays with Jacob Eason throwing a 3-yard TD pass to tight end Jack Westover for a 20-17 edge.

Joiner’s fumble set up the first of two rushing TDs for Ahmed, but Arizona quickly moved into the Washington 6-yard line. A Tate sack—one of four in the game—and a holding penalty on what would have been a J.J. Taylor TD run, though, forced Arizona to settle for a 31-yard field goal by Lucas Havrisik with 14:46 left in the fourth quarter to make it 27-20.

After that it was all Washington. Jacob Eason hit Aaron Fuller for a 22-yard TD pass just four plays later, then following a three-and-out by UA the Huskies tackled on a 3-yard Ahmed run with 9:54 left.

Tate was intercepted on Arizona’s next possession, which resulted in a UW field goal with 6:59 to go. Tate finished with 184 yards and a TD on 13-of-25 passing, with the majority of his incompletions throwaways because of pressure by Washington’s defensive front.

“They just brought pressure, and the back end (of Washington’s defense) did their job,” Tate said. “We have to do a better job of executing.”

Added Sumlin: “They just kept coming when we dropped back to throw it.”

The game far out of reach, true freshman Grant Gunnell entered for Arizona’s final offensive series. That marked his third appearance of the season, leaving him only one more game he can play if the Wildcats intend on redshirting him.

Arizona’s first drive of the game ended with Matt Aragon’s punt getting blocked, giving Washington the ball at the UA 36. But the Huskies couldn’t take advantage, getting stuffed on 4th and 2 when Trevon Mason and Christian Young stopped Ahmed just shy of the marker.

Washington got deep into Wildcat territory on its second possession thanks to a 44-yard run by Sean McGrew but had to settle for a 27-yard field goal.

Then a muffed Arizona punt, in which gunner Thomas Reid III ran into returner Stanley Berryhill III, gave the Huskies the ball at the Wildcat 8, yet they couldn’t get into the end zone and managed only a 25-yard field goal to go up 6-0 with 35 seconds left in the opening quarter.

Washington muffed a punt of its own early in the second quarter, giving Arizona the ball in plus territory, but after failing to get a first down got on the board via a 50-yard Havrisik field goal to make it 6-3 with 12:59 left before halftime.

Then game a big mistake by Tate which enabled Washington to score the game’s first TD. Backpedaling on 3rd and 5 with several Huskies in his face, Tate appeared to try and throw the ball away with his left hand but it ended up going backwards for a fumble. The Huskies’ Brandon Wellington picked up the loose ball at the 5-yard line and ran it in for a 13-3 lead with 8:55 left in the first half.

And like a week ago, when his ill-advised throw was intercepted and immediately led to a Colorado TD, Tate responded quickly. He orchestrated a nine-play, 75-yard drive capped by a 40-yard TD pass to Jamarye Joiner to make it 13-10 with 5:31 left in the half. Tate connected with Berryhill on a 15-yard throw on 3rd and long earlier in the drive and also had an 8-yard run when the pocket collapsed.

The Wildcats took a 17-13 lead into the locker room on a 1-yard run TD by Taylor with 1:06 left, which came a play after Tate connected with rarely utilized tight end Bryce Wolma for a 23-yard jump pass over the middle. Taylor finished with 89 yards on 18 carries, his first significant action since Sept. 14 against Texas Tech.

Arizona now heads out on the two for its next two games, beginning next Saturday at USC. The Wildcats haven’t won at the Los Angeles Coliseum since 2009.

“This team has been through adversity before,” Tate said. “We know how to bounce back. We have to play all four quarters every game.”