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Arizona football walks off Colorado on road with last-second field goal

arizona-wildcats-colorado-buffaloes-college-football-recap-stats-highlights-final-score-pac12-2023 Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The last time Arizona lost a game, more than a month ago, it fell in triple overtime but should have been beaten in regulation had USC not horribly botched a chip-shot field goal attempt.

The Wildcats were not about to pull a Trojan.

Tyler Loop’s 24-yard field goal as time expired, the only time the UA led in a 34-31 win at Colorado on Saturday afternoon. It was the fourth consecutive win for the 23rd-ranked Wildcats (7-3, 5-2 Pac-12) who are assured of their first winning record in conference play since 2017 and their first winning conference road record since 2014.

Arizona executed a near-perfect game-winning drive, going 67 yards in 11 plays that used up the final 4:57 after Colorado (4-6, 1-6) missed on a 44-yard field goal. The Wildcats got a pair of big runs early in the drive from Jonah Coleman, who ran for a career-high 179 yards on just 11 carries, to get into field goal range and then bled the clock with safe runs and short passes.

The last of those was a 5-yard reception on 3rd and 3 from the 6 by Montana Lemonious-Craig, the former Colorado receiver who had five catches for 67 yards in his best performance as a Wildcat. After that conversion Noah Fifita took a couple knees to set up the winning kick.

Fifita was 21 of 35 for 214 yards and two touchdowns, the most incompletions of his career, but after going 8 of 18 in the first half the 4-time Pac-12 Freshman of the Year was 13 of 17 for 113 yards and a TD in the second half.

The TD catches were by Tetairoa McMillan, who had nine catches for 107 yards, and Jacob Cowing, while DJ Williams had his first career two-TD game and ran for 33 yards on nine carries.

Arizona outgained Colorado 421-352 including 234-102 in the second half. It sacked Buffaloes quarterback Shedeur Sanders three times but the son of head coach Deion Sanders still threw for 265 yards and two TDs and had several key scrambles including a 16-yard TD run for Colorado’s first score.

The Wildcats won despite being on the severe wrong end of the field position game, starting drives at their own 2 (twice), 8 and 13 while Colorado had four possessions start in UA territory. The Buffaloes scored TDs on the first three but the final one resulted in that missed field goal.

Down 24-17 at halftime, Arizona needed six plays to tie it. The third of those was a 54-yard Coleman run on 3rd and short and the last was another T-Mac one-handed TD catch from 2 yards out.

The Wildcats forced Colorado to punt from midfield on its first second-half possession but the ensuing drive was thwarted by a penalty against the UA for a coach colliding with a referee on the sideline. The Buffaloes then returned a punt into UA territory, converted a 4th down from just outside the 30 and took advantage of a roughing call on Taylor Upshaw before going up 31-24 on Michael Harrison’s 7-yard TD catch.

Williams scored on a 7-yard run on the first play of the fourth quarter to knot it once again, and Arizona quickly forced punts on Colorado’s next two possessions but couldn’t do anything with the ball in a tie game. That was a theme throughout the game.

The Buffaloes’ fourth drive to begin in UA territory started with just over seven minutes left at the 49-yard line and got to the 24 after two plays but then went backwards. They attempted a 44-yard field goal that went wide right, setting up Arizona’s walkoff win.

It was the only one of six drives the UA had when the game was tied in which it scored. It scored five times in six tries when trailing.

The teams traded 3-and-outs to begin, then Colorado took advantage of a lucky bounce to go up 7-0. Xavier Weaver returned a punt to the UA 36 but not before getting stripped along the way by Bill Norton and having the ball bounce right back to him.

Three plays later, Shedeur Sanders scored on a 16-yard scramble.

Arizona quickly responded, tying it on Williams’ 11-yard run on 3rd and short. The drive included a 31-yard catch by Lemonious-Craig.

Sanders hit Jimmy Horn Jr. on a 20-yard TD pass in the final minute of the first quarter to put the Buffs up 14-7, capping a drive that included a pair of third-down conversions.

Cowing’s 3-yard TD catch tied it at 14 midway through the second, the score coming one play after Colorado’s Deeve Harris was called for a late hit on Fifita on a 3rd-and-goal incompletion. That drive began with Coleman breaking off a 49-yard run.

A 1-yard run by Sy’veon Henderson gave the Buffs the lead back with 3:13 left before halftime, and Arizona got within four on Loop’s career-long 52-yard field goal with 92 seconds remaining before Colorado got a 39-yard field goal as time expired.

Arizona returns to Tucson for its final home game next weekend, hosting No. 13 Utah.