TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) - Nick Foles threw for 352 yards and three touchdowns in his final game for Arizona, and the Wildcats held off Louisiana-Lafayette 45-37 on Saturday.
Foles, whose status for the game had been uncertain because of bruised ribs, tied the school record for career (64) and single-season (31) touchdown passes. He already held virtually all other passing records at the school. Foles also topped 4,000 yards passing for the season and 10,000 for his career.
Juron Criner caught nine passes for 129 yards and two touchdowns for the Wildcats (4-8), breaking the school career record for TD receptions at 32.
Blaine Gautier threw for 315 yards and a touchdown and ran for a score for the Ragin' Cajuns (8-4), who cut the Arizona lead to eight points three times in the fourth quarter.
Javon Lawson caught five passes for 137 yards for the Cajuns.
Gautier tied Jake Delhomme's school record of touchdown passes in a season at 20.
Louisiana-Lafayette tied an NCAA record when Jemarious Moten intercepted Foles' pass and returned it 41 yards for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter, the seventh "pick six" of the season for the team. That tied a mark set by Tennessee in 1971.
The Cajuns of the Sun Belt Conference accepted a bid to the New Orleans Bowl on Monday, their first postseason appearance in 41 years.
Arizona (4-8) finished 3-3 under interim coach Tim Kish after Mike Stoops was fired halfway through the season. New coach Rich Rodriguez visited with tailgaters before the game and was introduced to the crowd at halftime.
Louisiana-Lafayette, 0-4 against Pac-12 teams, pulled within one possession for the final time when Gauthier scored on a 10-yard quarterback draw with 5:05 to play. But the Cajuns never got the ball again as Arizona moved downfield and ran out the clock.
Moten's TD return, on his second interception of the day, cut Arizona's lead to 31-23, but the Wildcats' Daniel Jenkins returned the ensuing kickoff 81 yards to the Louisiana 2. Two plays later, Keola Antolin scored on a 5-yard run to make it 38-23 with 13:28 left.
Again the Ragin' Cajuns came back, going 71 yards in 10 plays, with Alonzo Harris scoring on a 5-yard run to cut it to 38-30 with 10:26 still to go.
Foles' 35-yard pass to Criner at the 6:08 mark boosted the lead to 45-30.
The Cajuns used a fake punt and an onside kick in the first half, both of them successful, to take leads of 7-0 and 13-7.
Backup Bryson Bierne started in place of Foles, who was knocked out late in last week's 31-27 win at Arizona State. Bierne drove the Wildcats to the Louisiana 25, but his pass was intercepted by Moten, who returned it 19 yards to the Cajuns' 40.
Gautier's 40-yard pass to Lawson set up Harry Peoples' 11-yard TD run to make it 7-0. Foles came on for Arizona's second series and directed a 16-play, 80-yard scoring drive, with fullback Taimi Tutogi bulling in from the 1 on fourth down to tie it at 7-7.
After the kickoff, Louisiana-Lafayette faked a punt on fourth-and-11 from its 40, with punter Brett Baer throwing 13 yards to the Arizona 47. Ladarius Green's 20-yard run on a reverse set up Gautier's 4-yard touchdown pass to Alonzo Harris. Baer's conversion try bounced off the right upright and was no good, so the Ragin' Cajuns led 13-7 with 9:14 left in the half.
Foles threw two touchdown passes in a span of two minutes, 39 seconds late in the half to put Arizona up 21-13 at the break.
Jenkins' 34-yard run and a 24-yard pass to Criner set up Foles' 9-yard scoring pass to Criner that put Arizona up for good 14-13. On the second play after the subsequent kickoff, Gautier was hit by defenders from both sides and fumbled. Marquis Flowers recovered for the Wildcats at the Louisiana 32.
A roughing-the-passer penalty and four straight completions by Foles, the last 12 yards to David Douglas for a touchdown with 34 seconds left, put Arizona ahead 21-13.
Pac-12 Conference Career Passing Leaders
Below is a list of quarterbacks who have thrown for more than 10,000 yards in their careers. Of the players listed below, only USC's Matt Leinart (2003-05) and Arizona's Nick Foles (2009-11) have accomplished the feat in only three seasons.
Rnk Yards Quarterback, School Years
1. 11,818 Carson Palmer, USC 1998-2002
2. 11,249 Derek Anderson, Oregon State 2001-04
3. 10,913 Alex Brink, Washington State 2004-07
4. 10,911 Steve Stenstrom, Stanford 1991-94
5. 10,708 Cade McNown, UCLA 1995-98
6. 10,693 Matt Leinart, USC 2003-05
7. 10,492 Andrew Walter, Arizona State 2001-04
8. 10,491 Rudy Carpenter, Arizona State 2005-08
9. 10,220 Cody Pickett, Washington 1999-2003
10. 10,011 Nick Foles, Arizona 2009-11
"I am one hundred percent proud of the resilience our team has shown for the second half of this season. Their ability to focus and believe in the plan has been unbelievable. It's never been about wins or losses. It's about playing our game. I am also very proud of our coaching staff. They are a group of men that I have never been happier to have supporting me for this season. They will all be fine in whatever niche they end up in."
"We had some tough moments in the first half, including the fumble on the two-yard line that we should have recovered, and then those fakes. We were able to bounce back, and coming into the game with two wins was a good feeling. There is a very good foundation here. I told the underclassmen today to look up to the seniors and learn their work ethic and passion. To the seniors, I asked them to once again put the team on their shoulders like they did last week, and it was wonderful to see that happen."
"Seven weeks ago, we were one hundred individuals, who were very confused and unsure. Now, I can say that they have battled back and become a team."
"Nick Foles is a warrior. Not many people know of the situation he is in right now, with his rib, but I'm very sure he shouldn't have played as much as he did tonight. Nick was definitely not following through with his passes, he couldn't, and at halftime, when I asked him if he wanted to sit out, it wasn't even a question. He was going back out."
"Juron Criner, when he makes up his mind, and he wants to play, he is unstoppable at this level. At the next, he'll definitely see competition, but in the college level, he can be unstoppable. He will also be the first to say that this season was this first time he felt like he was part of a team."
"We have an extremely sturdy foundation here, and once we get our defense healthy, we will be a lot stronger. On offense, we'll have Matt Scott next year, and he is a quality quarterback, and our offensive line will just get better and better."
On Bryson Beirne starting at quarterback: "He deserved it. He has gone through so much, he's an amazing person. We're like brothers, we room together on the road and he really deserved it. I told Coach (Frank) Scelfo he deserves to start. When you're a good person and you do the right thing, you deserve it.
On injuries: "I was fine. I made it through the game. I knew it was my last game ever and I had to gut it out and fight through it."
On Coach Tim Kish: "He's an outgoing coach, he really gets involved in the player's lives. He asks about our days and how we are doing. He really cares about us. He got us back to having fun while playing the game of football, he expressed it as the main point."
On the way he finished his career: "I finished the way I thought I should. Obviously the injuries held me back a little bit, but I played my heart out every game and left it on the field. Coach Nichol was with me all four years and he helped raise me and make me the man I am today."
On what he will miss about Arizona: "I will miss the family aspect of this place. No more campus, no more going to class, no more workouts with everybody. I'll miss everything."
On this season as a whole: "We went through some true adversity. We had a lot of walls in front of us, we ran into some and we jumped over some."
On Nick Foles: "It says a lot about him as a player and a person. He was dedicated and tough, and even though he was injured he was still able to perform."