Nov. 5, 2011
TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) - John Hays threw for 199 yards and a pair of touchdowns, and Utah's defense hounded Arizona quarterback Nick Foles into a pair of big mistakes en route to a 34-21 win over the Wildcats on Saturday.
Utah (5-4, 2-4 Pac-12) had another solid defensive game, hitting Foles early and often to set up two interceptions.
Hays continued to build confidence after his solid start against Oregon State last week, connecting on 12 of 21 passes. John White added 109 yards and a pair of touchdowns on the ground, moving Utah within a game of becoming bowl eligible for the ninth straight season.
Needing to win its final four games to become bowl eligible, Arizona (2-7, 1-6) fell flat.
The Wildcats had trouble protecting Foles and had some ugly miscues on special teams in the first half, including two blocked punts and a badly botched fake field goal.
Foles hit 25 of 43 passes for 326 yards and had a pair of touchdown passes to David Douglas, but threw two interceptions, including one in the end zone with the Wildcats on Utah's 2-yard line in the fourth quarter. Douglas finished with 10 catches for a career-high 156 yards.
The game figured to be a clash of strengths. Arizona has one of the nation's best passing offenses behind Foles, the nation's leader with over 32 completions per game.
Utah, despite its struggles in the Pac-12, has the nation's 22nd-ranked defense, allowing just over 325 yards per game, and is second in the conference in defensive scoring.
The advantage went to the Utes.
Utah pressured Foles relentlessly, sacking him twice in the first half while forcing him to make numerous throws on the run or with someone in his face throughout the game.
The Utes forced an interception in the second quarter by getting to Foles, who threw off-balance and Utah linebacker Matt Martinez made a diving grab at Arizona's 30-yard line. White scored four plays later on an 18-yard run off of the left tackle to put Utah up 17-0.
Utah had sustained success on special teams, too, breaking through to block two punts in the first half.
Greg Bird got to Kyle Dugandzic's first punt of the game, setting up a 32-yard field goal by Coleman Peterson. He missed from 42 yards after another partially-blocked punt in the second quarter.
Utah's offense wasn't bad, either.
Arizona stacked the box to stop the run early in the game and Utah made them pay for it, using play-action to spring DeVonte Christopher for a 65-yard touchdown pass from Hays that put the Utes up 10-0 on the second play of the second quarter.
Video: Nick Foles, UA Quarterback
Hays also opened the second half with a 44-yard touchdown pass to Reggie Dunn after Arizona cornerback Lyle Brown slipped, putting the Utes up 27-7.
Arizona's offense struggled before finally showing some life late in the second quarter, moving 73 yards in seven plays to set up Douglas' acrobatic 23-yard touchdown catch from Foles. Douglas made the catch over his shoulder while diving and barely got his foot in for the highlight-worthy score.
Foles hit Douglas again late in the third quarter, throwing on the run for a 42-yard touchdown that cut Utah's lead to 27-14.
Foles again had the Wildcats driving midway through the fourth quarter, but his lazy fade pass in the end zone from the 2-yard line was picked off by Utah's Conroy Black, who returned it across midfield. White followed with an 11-yard score to put the game out of reach.
Arizona Coach Tim Kish Postgame
"I talked to the team, and in my view, the team played hard for 60 minutes. They fought to the last and that is no reason to hang their head. They do have reason to be disappointed, because there is no way we can make the critical mistakes we made and get a good outcome. The fault was not in one person, we are a team that wins and loses together. I tell them not to leave anything on the table, and leave everything on the field, and that happened tonight."
"Nick Foles is a tremendous competitor and he gives his best effort on every play. There are a couple throws tonight that I know he would like to take back if he could, but I know that he wants to help the team win in any way he can."
"Utah played less man defense than we anticipated and mixed up their zone coverage and blitzes, and that kept us off balance a bit. We had over 450 yards in the end, but it was the critical mistakes that got us."
"Tonight's game means a lot to our guys, the team means a lot, this season means a lot, and we have three games left to play. We have to go out on Monday, and prepare for Colorado, so we can have the best opportunity to get a win."
On the fake field goal:
"They were going hard, hard, hard off the edge, so we knew we'd have to space to make the run, but they must have sniffed something, and played coverage on the wings, giving time for their guy to run straight through the attempt."
"It's a tough situation that we're in right now, and I know we have to work hard to keep the morale up, because we do have three games to go, even if we've ruled out postseason play at this point. We just have to be positive going into next week."