Arizona has the Leap by the Lake — Ortege Jenkins’ game-winning flip into the end zone to beat Washington in 1998.
And now it has something completely different.
What to call this one?
The Defeat by the Cleat?
In one of the most freakishly painful losses in UA history, receiver Delashaun Dean tipped a pass off his left hand, off his shoe (or off the turf right next to his shoe) and into the eternally grateful hands of Washington linebacker Mason Foster.
Foster turned and ran 37 yards for a touchdown with 2:37 left, giving the Huskies a 34-33 lead. Washington added a two-point conversion to cap a 15-point outburst in 18 seconds, and then the Huskies came up with a fourth-down interception to thwart Arizona’s final drive.
Washington won 36-33 … and this one will rip at the hearts of Arizona fans for, well, for as long as they’re fans.
It was a game in which Arizona had time of possession for more than 39 minutes.
It was a game in which Arizona had a 461-256 edge in total yards.
It was a game in which Arizona didn’t commit a turnover until less than three minutes to play.
It was a game in which Arizona had eight trips inside the Washington 20-yard line, thereby putting itself in position for 56 points. It came up with only 33 — three touchdowns, four field goals and one horrible drive in which it was stuffed at fourth-and-goal with three inches to go.
It was a game Arizona absolutely should have won.
So, let’s play the blame game.
For Arizona to lose, a series of things had to wrong. It wasn’t just one freak play.
I completely don’t mind the play call that led to the interception return for a touchdown.
Arizona was making a living off that screen pass all game — it was what Washington was giving the Cats. “We saw they were stacking the box to protect against the run,” coordinator Sonny Dykes was quoted as saying in the Seattle Times.
It’s a “safe” play. I don’t think UA could have made a first down and run out the clock by rushing the ball.
The Wildcats weren’t getting a push up front all game, and at that point of the game, it looked to me as if third-string running back Greg Nwoko — forced into yeoman’s duty because of injuries to Nic Grigsby and Keola Antolin — was gassed.
I think Arizona had it right earlier in the fourth quarter when it went on passed on six of eight plays to easily march to the UW 14. Here’s where Arizona blew it by getting too conservative.
The Wildcats were up 30-21 at the time, with about five minutes left in the game. A touchdown would have put the game almost out of reach, requiring two touchdowns and two two-point conversions just to tie the score.
With the passing game working, it seemed as if the coaches were content for a field goal, calling for two safe handoffs to Nwoko before completing a pass short of a first down. The field goal made it 33-21.
From there, everything went wrong. A short kickoff. A stupid 15-yard personal foul penalty on linebacker Vuna Tuihalamaka, who clocked a Washington receiver after the pass had gone by incomplete. A 25-yard touchdown pass from Jake Locker on third-and-10.
And then came the ill-fated deflection. Coach Mike Stoops called it a run/pass option, and blamed himself on his postgame radio show for giving quarterback Nick Foles the option to pass.
Washington defended the play well for the first time all game, jumping into the route, which threw off the timing off the play. Foles, however, had a lane to throw to Dean, but Foles tossed the ball behind him and at his feet — possibly just trying to throw an incompletion and move on the next play.
Dean reached back and tipped the ball off his shoe — and perhaps off the turf, although the replay officials never took an extended look at it — and that was that. Foster’s TD gave Washington a 36-33 lead.
To me, the game was lost on all those squandered points in the red zone. This team really misses tight end Rob Gronkowski, but that can’t be an excuse five games into the season. The coaches have had ample time to find players/plays that work in the red zone.
Too bad, though. The Cats win this game easily with Gronk in the lineup. If he’s not catching TD passes in the end zone, he’s occupying two defenders so someone else can get open.
Can’t wait until Foles and Gronkowski are in the lineup together in 2010.
But that’s next year.
There is still a lot left of this season. I wrote last week that Arizona, with the exception of the Washington State game, can expect to play seven more games like the nail-biter at Oregon State.
Well, this was one of ‘em.
Arizona has three consecutive home games — Stanford, UCLA and Washington State — and could get itself right on this homestand.
But it’s as 1290-AM game analyst Lamont Lovett said about the Wildcats after the game: “They are going to cry when they look at this film.”
The Agony of the Cleat.