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Lack of stops dooms Arizona football in shootout loss at Washington

arizona-wildcats-football-recap-washington-huskies-pac12-stats-highlights-2022 Photo by Jacob Snow/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Gaining more than 500 yards and scoring in the 30s should be a recipe for success. Emphasis on should, since Arizona has now lost twice this season with those offensive numbers.

The UA was once again let down by its porous defense, this time unable to stop the pass, falling 49-39 at Washington on Saturday afternoon in Seattle.

The Wildcats (3-4, 1-3 Pac-12) gained 526 yards, their third 500-yard performance in the last four games, with Jayden de Laura throwing for 400 yards and four touchdowns, yet they never led and trailed by as much as 18 before making it a one-score game midway through the fourth quarter.

That’s because Washington (5-2, 2-2) had 595 yards, 516 coming through the air as Huskies quarterback Michael Penix Jr. broke the school record for passing yards in a game.

Penix was 36 of 44 with 516 yards and four TDs, breaking the previous mark of 455 set in 2001 by Cody Picket (ironically, also against Arizona). Penix also ran for a score and, most importantly, was never sacked and only occasionally pressured despite UA defensive coordinator Johnny Nansen blitzing more than in any other game.

Arizona held Washington to 79 rushing yards, the fewest the Wildcats have allowed on the ground this season, with only one rush going for more than 10 yards after entering the game having given up an FBS-worst 49 runs of 10-plus.

That lone big run came on a 19-yard TD by Cameron Davis with 5:30 left. It happened one play after DJ Warnell, making his first start, was called for holding on 3rd and 11 despite replays showing the UW receiver may have fooled the official into throwing the flag.

Several officiating decisions went against Arizona in this one, including in the first half when the Wildcats turned the ball over on downs in the UW red zone. Down 14-7, an option pitch to Jonah Coleman on 4th and 1 missed the target and hit the ground and was ruled an incomplete pass; the call was overturned on review, but since the whistle had blown Arizona wasn’t allowed to advance the ball and negated what would have been a first-down gain for Coleman.

The UA was down 42-39 before that score, having rallied from down 42-24 late in the third. But other than forcing Washington into a missed field goal attempt with 11:22 to go, Arizona’s defense allowed scores on every other second-half possession besides UW’s game-ending kneeldowns.

Washington took a 21-14 lead into the half thanks to a score with eight seconds left in the second quarter, a 4-yard TD catch by Sam Adams II out of the backfield. Less than a minute into the third quarter it was 28-14, as Arizona attempted an onside kick to open the second half, which UW recovered, and two plays later Penix found Rome Odunze behind the defense for a 45-yard TD catch.

Odunze had nine catches for 169 yards and two TDs, becoming the first Washington receiver with four consecutive 100-yard games.

The teams traded TDs after that, with Coleman scoring on a 3-yard run and Penix keeping it for an 8-yard score. Tyler Loop connected on a career-long 48-yard field goal to get Arizona within 35-24 with 4:01 left in the third, only to see Odunze haul in a 48-yard TD pass to make it 42-24 with 1:56 to go in the third.

Fourth-quarter TD catches of 20 by Tanner McLachlan and 26 from Tetairoa McMillan, who Mossed his defender on the play, plus a de Laura 2-point pass to Coleman made it a 42-39 game with 9:51 remaining.

After Washington extended the lead to 10, Arizona got into the red zone with less than two minutes to go before de Laura was sacked on back-to-back plays and actually left the game. Freshman Noah Fifita was hurried into an incompletion on third and goal, then Loop missed a 41-yard field goal in the final minute.

After Arizona went 3-and-out on its opening drive, the first time that’s happened this season, Washington went up 7-0 on a 23-yard TD catch by Jalen McMillan. The Wildcats tied it at 7 with 1:48 left in the first quarter on a 46-yard TD reception by T-Mac, who shook off a tackle and then raced the west of the way for his fifth score of the season.

McMillan had career highs in catches (seven) and yards (132), and his six TD receptions are most by a UA freshman since Nate Phillips had seven in 2013.

A 1-yard TD run by Cam Davis on a direct snap put Washington up 14-7 early in the second quarter, but Arizona evened it with 2:23 left before halftime on a 39-yard Dorian Singer catch.

The UA is off next week, returning to action Oct. 29 for Homecoming against No. 6 USC.