(Editor’s note: Since the Pac-12 is not playing football right now, we’re going to simulate all 12 games on Arizona’s original schedule on NCAA Football 14 and recap them on the dates they were supposed to be played. Enjoy!)
Arizona’s defense was solid through the first three weeks of the season, but still had a goose egg in one major category: Turnovers.
Its fortunes changed in a big way in Lubbock.
Behind three key takeaways, the Wildcats cruised past Texas Tech 29-12 on Saturday for their third straight win, as well as their first road win of the 2020 campaign.
Christian Young sealed the game with a pick six, stepping in front of a short pass in the flat and taking it 75 yards to the house to give the Wildcats (3-1) a 26-6 cushion with a little over six minutes to play.
Arizona’s only other touchdown—a one-yard plunge by Gary Brightwell in the first quarter—resulted from a turnover as well.
A Texas Tech wide receiver fumbled a first-down completion over the middle, and UA cornerback Lorenzo Burns scooped it up deep in TTU territory. Three Brightwell runs later, the Wildcats had an early 7-0 lead, quickly quieting the sellout crowd at AT&T Jones Stadium.
In between was a second-quarter interception by Christian Roland-Wallace that halted a Texas Tech drive that was about to break into UA territory, though Arizona was unable to capitalize on that one as Grant Gunnell was intercepted on a deep pass near the goal line just four plays later.
Both offenses, and QBs, were erratic.
Gunnell was 29 for 46 for 305 yards, no touchdowns. Alan Bowman was 30 for 49 for a touchdown (it came in garbage time) and the two picks.
Neither team had much success on the ground either, rushing for less than 60 yards apiece. (Arizona’s coaching staff really hates running the ball in this game.)
Trevon Mason had both of Arizona’s sacks, while Texas Tech brought down Gunnell five times to thwart several drives.
Fortunately, the Wildcats had Lucas Havrisik’s leg to bail them out.
The senior made his first five field-goal attempts before missing one and having one blocked in the fourth quarter. (The game was already out of reach at that point, so those miscues were no big deal.)
Havrisik’s makes came from 45 yards, 50 yards, 24 yards, 39 yards and 27 yards.
Havrisik drilled three field goals in the second quarter alone, extending Arizona’s lead to 16-3 as time expired in the first half. He then opened the third quarter with a 39-yarder to make it a 16-point game.
Arizona was actually outgained by Texas Tech 430-345 and went just 2 for 13 on third down.
But the Red Raiders, who like Arizona have an 84 rating in NCAA 14, never made it close.
Seth Collins hauled in a 25-yard touchdown with 1:24 left in the fourth to make the final score look more respectable than it actually was.
Texas Tech made two trips to the red zone, but came away empty handed, missing two short field goals.
The Wildcats have allowed 20 or fewer points in all four games so far, a tremendous start to the Paul Rhoads era. (And a good reminder that this is a video game.)
Arizona has a bye next week before resuming Pac-12 play against UCLA at the Rose Bowl.
PICKED OFF!— AZ Desert Swarm (@AZDesertSwarm) September 20, 2020
Christian Roland-Wallace steps in front of a pass, and Arizona is back in business.
(Make sure you listen to Kirk Herbstreit’s groundbreaking analysis.) #SimSeason pic.twitter.com/1UYm9CJRke