(Editor’s note: Since the Pac-12 is not playing football this fall, we’re going to simulate all 12 games on Arizona’s original schedule on NCAA Football 14 and recap them on the dates on which they were supposed to be played. Enjoy!)
Another heartbreaker against Hawaii.
Lucas Havrisik’s 56-yard field-goal attempt drifted wide right as the final seconds ticked away and the Rainbow Warriors hung on for a 16-15 road win over the Arizona Wildcats to open the 2020 season.
The victory comes a year after Hawaii stopped Khalil Tate short at the goal line as time expired in Honolulu.
Havrisik was Arizona’s saving grace...until he wasn’t.
The UA senior had drilled all five of his field-goal attempts before his final kick, including makes from 45 and 54 yards.
He was Arizona’s lone scorer on a night when it outgained Hawaii 429-233, but was hampered by turnovers and lousy red zone execution.
Sophomore quarterback Grant Gunnell completed 45 of 53 passes for 377 yards, but turned it over twice, with both giveaways resulting in Hawaii points.
And just like last year, the Wildcats struggled out of the gate.
Gunnell was stripped on Arizona’s opening drive as the Wildcats approached midfield. His pocket awareness was poor, but his right tackle didn’t do him any favors, getting beaten badly on a bull rush.
Hawaii quarterback Chevan Cordeiro picked up a big first down with his legs on the ensuing drive—then punched it in at the goal line for the first points of the game, though it didn’t appear he ever crossed the plane.
Things got uglier from there.
The Wildcats got conservative on their next drive, dumping it off to Gary Brightwell on third and long, causing a chorus of boos to emanate from the Arizona Stadium stands. (Remember when fans were actually allowed at games?)
Gunnell was intercepted on the following drive after Arizona nickle-and-dimed into Hawaii territory. The Warriors turned that into a 47-yard field goal, giving them a 10-0 cushion with 6:11 left in the second quarter.
Havrisik drilled two field goals, including a 45-yarder in the final seconds of the second quarter, to pull Arizona within 10-6 at the half.
Gunnell was sharper in the second half, but Arizona’s three red-zone trips only resulted in three field goals.
The Wildcats opted to kick a field goal on 4th and short at the Hawaii 10, cutting the deficit to 10-9 when Havrisik converted the chip shot with two minutes left in the third.
Havrisik struck again with 6:34 left in the fourth to give Arizona its first lead, making a 54-yarder from pretty much the same spot his final kick came from.
“I can’t believe this is still a close game,” analyst Kirk Herbstreit quipped after Havrisik later made a 21-yarder on 4th and goal at the 4 to give Arizona a 15-10 advantage with under two minutes to play.
The Wildcats bled several minutes off the clock on their 17-play, 63-yard scoring drive, but settling for a field goal left the door open for Cordeiro and company to make a comeback.
The redshirt sophomore mostly struggled through the air, going 18 for 33 for 136 yards, but was clutch down the stretch.
With 34 seconds left, he fired an 11-yard dart to Rico Bussey over the middle for the game-winning touchdown. That was just a couple plays after Cordeiro floated a 29-yard pass along the right side to Calvin Turner to put the Warriors in the red zone.
An incredible diving catch by Brian Casteel gave Arizona life at the Hawaii 44 with 17 seconds left as they mounted a rally of their own.
Gunnell quickly lined up the offense and took a deep shot to the end zone, but it was almost intercepted near the pylon by Cortez Davis, the same defensive back that picked off Gunnell in the first half.
Holy crap, what a catch by Brian Casteel!— AZ Desert Swarm (@AZDesertSwarm) August 30, 2020
Arizona is now in Hawaii territory, but there’s only 11 seconds left after a shot to the end zone was almost picked off. #SimSeason is stressful. pic.twitter.com/3QI3MKN9Q3
A nine-yard swing pass to Brightwell moved Arizona within field goal range, but the field goal unit was whistled for a false start on 3rd and 1, making Havrisik’s potential game-winner all the more difficult.
His 56-yard attempt had plenty of distance anyway—he has 96 kicking power in NCAA 14—but was clearly off the mark from the moment it left his foot.
And that’ll do it.— AZ Desert Swarm (@AZDesertSwarm) August 30, 2020
Lucas Havrisik’s 56-yard field goal attempt goes wide right, and Arizona falls to Hawaii 16-15 to open the 2020 #SimSeason.
Even in video games Arizona can’t escape heartbreak. pic.twitter.com/Zpucz13x2g
“That is just a devastating miss for this team,” Herbstreit said, as cameras showed Havrisik and several other players shrugging their arms in the air.
Especially since Arizona’s defense had been surprisingly stingy, though it didn’t make any big plays and benefitted from some costly Hawaii drops.
McKenzie Barnes registered UA’s lone sack on a cornerback blitz and the secondary mishandled multiple would-be interceptions.
Aside from two long catches by Casteel and a 44-yard strike to Brenden Schooler, who did not transfer from Arizona because the season started on time in this alternate universe, the Wildcats moved the ball almost exclusively with short passes.
Brightwell struggled to get going on the ground, carrying the rock 17 times for a meager 52 yards.
The Wildcats got too cute in the second quarter, faking a punt on 4th and 1 at the Hawaii 44. Bryce Wolma, the upback, was tackled behind the line of scrimmage.
Why did Arizona even bring out the punting unit in the first place? Not sure—coaches were unavailable for comment since they don’t actually exist—but it was one of many questionable fourth-down decisions on the night.
It didn’t help that Arizona lost star receiver Jamarye Joiner to a shoulder strain in the first quarter after he took a hard hit on a bubble screen. Tough stretch for him after he broke his foot in the spring.
However, sources say Joiner will return next game vs. Portland State, a must-win for the Wildcats, who then face Stanford and Texas Tech.
(Reminder: This is not real. Only for fun.)
The boo birds are already out as Arizona gets conservative on its second drive. pic.twitter.com/Q7avvjo4KB— AZ Desert Swarm (@AZDesertSwarm) August 30, 2020