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Arizona-Louisiana game blog: Cats win; Criner sets touchdown record

New coach rich Rodriguez meets Chaz Elsten in the tailgate area on the mall. Photo by Anthony Gimino, TucsonCitizen.com

Arizona runs out the clock and wins 45-37 to end the season at 4-8.

Late in the fourth quarter, Nick Foles topped 10,000 career passing yards, becoming the 10th player in conference history to reach that level.

Check back for more later …

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Arizona scores on a 35-yard pass play from Nick Foles to Juron Criner, who does most of the work, making two guys miss after a short screen pass and then stiff-arming a defender near the goal line.

Foles ties the UA season record for TD passes (28) and career record for touchdown passes (67). Both were set by Willie Tuitama.

Arizona leads 45-30 with 6:08 to play.

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Why not? Arizona goes for it on fourth-and-inches from its 38-yard line with about 8 minutes left. It looked like a classic “try to draw the defense offsides” moment … but Arizona snapped the ball, handed to fullback Taimi Tutogi and picked up 3 yards.

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A 10-play touchdown drive keeps the Ragin’ Cajuns in it. Arizona’s lead is trimmed to 38-30 with 10:26 to play.

Tweets TucsonCitizen.com blogger Scott Terrell: “Like those Cajun hot wings, ULL is lingering.”

* * *

After a 15-yard penalty on the celebration of the previous touchdown, Louisiana kicks off to Daniel Jenkins, who fields the ball at the 19. He darts through traffic and then breaks into the clear down the left side. Jenkins looks to be on his way to paydirt, but Lionel Stokes trips up Jenkins at the 2.

Following a delay of game penalty, Arizona hands off the ball to Keola Antolin, who goes around the left side for a 7-yard score. Arizona leads 38-23 with 13:28 to go.

* * *

Louisiana gets within 31-23 on a 41-yard interception return by Jemarious Moten, who steps in front of a sideline pass intended for David Douglas. That is the Cajuns’ seventh interception return for a touchdown this season, tying an NCAA record set by Tennessee in 1971.

There is 13:47 to play.

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Going to fourth quarter. Arizona leads 31-16.

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Rich Rodriguez meets with media at halftime, talks about what’s next in terms of hiring assistants and recruiting.

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Arizona extends its lead to 28-13 with 7:46 to go in the third quarter on a 7-yard run by Daniel Jenkins.

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The Cats do score again after the fumble, as Nick Foles connects with David Douglas on a 12-yard pass for a touchdown over the middle. Foles needs one more TD pass to tie Willie Tuitama for the most in a career (67) and a season (28).

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Arizona gets a chance to extend the lead late in the half after Louisiana QB Blaine Gautier fumbles, and the ball is picked up by safety Brandon Flowers, who returns it 10 yards to the ULL 32.

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Arizona grabs the lead on a 9-yard pass from Nick Foles to Juron Criner, who sets the school record for career touchdown receptions with 31. He passes T Bell, who played from 1972 to 1975.

Arizona leads 14-13 with 3:07 to play in the half.

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Louisiana has pulled off a trifecta of special teams plays — on-side kick, fake punt and a now a blocked 28-yard field goal attempt with 5:46 to go in the half.

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With a 14-yard pass to Terrence Miller midway through the second quarter, Nick Foles became the single-season leader in pass attempts with 525. The old record was set by Willie Tuitama in 2007.

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With the help of the successful fake punt, Louisiana marches 69 yards on 14 plays, capped by a 4-yard TD pass from Blaine Gautier to Alonzo Harris. The PAT, however, is no good as Brett Baer’s attempt doinks off the right upright.

The Cajuns lead 13-7 with 9:14 to go before halftime.

* * *

Check your Special Teams bingo card. Who had Louisiana pulling off a fake punt on fourth-and-11. The pass play works for 13 yards from the UL-Lafayette 41.

That’s an on-side kick and a fake punt for the Cajuns so far.

* * *

Sometimes you can do the right thing and it ends up wrong. Arizona forces a fumble as it hits QB Blaine Gautier while he is throwing. The ball launches forward, and linebacker Derek Earls had a chance to pick it off in mid-air, but the ball hits the ground and UL-Lafayette recovers for a first down on third-and-3.

* * *

Taimi Tutogi bulls his way into the end zone on fourth-and-goal from the 1 as Arizona ties the game at 7 with 14:57 to play in the second quarter. That was a 16-play, 80-yard drive. It was the second-longest drive in terms of plays and time (6:54) this season.

* * *

The first quarter ends with Arizona facing fourth-and-goal from the 1. Louisiana leads 7-0.

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John Bonano hits a 46-yard field goal but a holding penalty on Louisiana makes it fourth-and-1 at the 20, and coach Tim Kish decides to take the points off the board. The Cats go for it and pick up the first down on a run by Daniel Jenkins.

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Nick Foles in at quarterback.

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The Arizona defense holds after the on-side kick, and the three-and-out includes a 13-yard sack from defensive end Dan Pettinato.

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Louisiana scores quickly after the interception, going 60 yards on three plays. Louisiana then recovered an on0sde kick, as Brett Baer pooches the ball in front of him and recovers the ball himself. The Ragin’ Cajuns are 3 for 3 are on-side kicks this season.

For Arizona, add it to the pile of special teams misadventures.

* * *

Nick Foles went through some warm-up work, but it’s Bryson Beirne who gets the start at quarterback. Is that a courtesy to Beirne, a fifth-year senior who makes his first career start or is Foles, nursing a rib contusion, unable to play?

We’ll see.

Beirne’s first drive ends in an interception as CB Jemarious Moten picks off an underthrown pass intended for Gino Crump.

* * *

Arizona starts the game on defense and comes out in its base 4-3 defense. We’ll see if the Cats use the three-man front it showed last week against ASU.

On third down, Arizona does go to its hybrid front … and a bad snap over the head over QB Blaine Gautier results in a 21-yard loss to the Louisiana 5-yard line.


New coach Rich Rodriguez mingled with fans in the tailgate area before the game, meeting and greeting. He will watch from the press box area during the game and is expected to address the crowd at halftime.

* * *

Arizona Wildcats interim head coach Tim Kish, near the end of Monday’s weekly news conference, choked up while talking about the emotions of the season-finale.

“At the end of the day,” Kish said before pausing for 10 seconds to compose himself, “it’s all good.”

Despite what the 3-8 record says, and against the odds, last week’s thrilling victory over Arizona State put a warm and fuzzy feeling on an otherwise frustrating season in which coach Mike Stoops was fired at midseason.

But a win over the state rival, coupled two days later with the announcement of Rich Rodriguez as the new head coach, has re-energized the program heading into the offseason.

That is likely to stay no matter what happens today against Louisiana in front of what figures to be a half-empty (or is that half-full?) stadium.

If it truly is all good at the end of the day, it’s a tribute to Kish, who has endeared himself because of his positive energy and emotion (not unlike a former UA interim head basketball coach — Russ Pennell).

Kish described his emotions as “joy” for the final week of the regular season.

“I understand everything comes to an end,” he said.

“For us, having the opportunity to be in front of these guys and lead them and go through everything we have been through, I’m tickled pink. But it isn’t me. It’s us. We’re very excited to go back out with this team one more time.”


Is Mike Stoops headed to Florida Atlantic?

The opponent’s view: Five things to watch

Nick Foles: Anatomy of a touchdown drive

Nick Foles’ health improving, but status uncertain

QB Matt Scott can get back to ‘natural roots’ in Rich Rodriguez’s offense

Steve Rivera, FoxSportsArizona.com: Arizona seniors full of memories, good and bad

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