Arizona vs. Utah: A look back

Arizona was unable to defeat Utah on Saturday. Read on for the three main reasons why and reaction to the crucial plays.

After struggling through the majority of their first eight games, the 34-21 loss to Utah on Saturday officially put the finishing touches on the Wildcats' season. Following the loss, Arizona was officially eliminated from bowl contention; making this the first time since 2007 the Wildcats will not be participating in bowl season.

All in all, the Utah game was an ugly one from start to finish. Here are three of the reasons Arizona was unable to come out on top against a subpar Utah football team.

1. Nick Foles

The senior quarterback has been nothing short of spectacular this season, passing for 3,260 yards (good for third in the nation behind Oklahoma's Landry Jones and Houston's Case Keenum) and 20 touchdowns. But, over the last two weeks Foles has struggled mightily, throwing for five interceptions combined.

Against Utah, Foles had his worst completion percentage of the year (58.1 percent) and threw for two costly interceptions. Poor decision-making was a factor, as was the surprisingly effective Utah pass defense (which was ranked 87th in the nation entering the game).

"They were just mixing it up a lot," said Foles. "When we were spreading it out they were mixing up the coverages, bringing guys unblocked, anything you can think of. When we were spreading it they were doing a lot of moving around."

The first interception came in the second quarter, when Utah's Matt Martinez made a diving grab at Arizona's 30-yard line, thus setting up an 18-yard touchdown run by halfback John White IV.

"They did a good job covering our routes," Foles added. "Especially in the first half. They played a tough game."

His second interception, which came in the fourth quarter, proved to be more costly. The Wildcats brought the ball all the way to Utah's 9-yard-line after starting the drive at their own 20-yard-line with eleven minutes remaining. After defensive pass interference was called, Arizona had first-and-goal at the two. Instead of trying a running play or two first, Arizona decided to pass the ball.

Foles attempted to throw it to freshman receiver Austin Hill in the right corner of the end zone. The ball was poorly placed, however, and Utah cornerback Conroy Black intercepted the ball at the goal line which, for all intents and purposes, ended the game.

"I just made a bad throw," Foles said. "I sort of did a back shoulder sort of look and it just wasn't a good ball. I didn't execute well at the end and we didn't execute well as an offense for most of the game."

2. Special teams miscues

Special teams have been a problem area for the Wildcats all season long, and it was clear early on after a questionable play call that things wouldn't be much better against Utah.

On the first drive of the game, Arizona brought the all the way to Utah's 15-yard-line. After being unable to convert on the first three downs, and a delay of game penalty, Arizona found itself at fourth-and-12 on Utah's 20-yard-line. This seemed like an opportune time to have kicker John Bonano get three points, as he has been perfect since became the starter.

Instead, Arizona chose to try and fake the field goal, which might have been successful, had it actually fooled anyone. Instead, Utah read the play perfectly and tackled Bonano for a loss of yards, and downs.

"They come hard, hard, hard off the edge," Tim Kish said. "We knew if they did that the thing would be wide open but unfortunately in that particular case I don't know if they sniffed something or what but they played coverage on our wings and the guy shot through there."

The struggles continued after that, as Utah went on to block two of Arizona's punts. Kick return coverage was also an issue on the day, as Utah returner Reggie Dunn helped give the Utes solid field position on three returns for 83 yards.

"I thought their return game was pretty darn good I don't know how much return yardage they ended up with but we didn't cover as well as we'd like," Kish said.

3. Mistakes in coverage

Entering the game, Utah had one of the worst passing offenses in the Pac-12. Quarterback Jon Hays was coming off a game against Oregon State where he went 6 for 14 with just 62 yards passing.

Against Arizona, he threw for two touchdowns. On both touchdowns, Arizona cornerbacks made him look less like Jon Hays and more like Andrew Luck. In reality, mistakes from defensive backs Jourdon Grandon and Lyle Brown were the reasons for the two touchdowns.

The first touchdown came when Grandon, looking into the backfield expecting a run, let Utah receiver Devonte Christopher run by him for an easy 65-yard touchdown. Kish thinks Grandon slipped on the play.

"Grandon was looking in the backfield and he fell on that first one…he was back up in time but he was looking at the backfield and the guy ran over top of him," said Kish.

The second touchdown came when Utah's Reggie Dunn just plain beat Brown in coverage, leaving himself wide open for a 44-yard touchdown. If not for those two mistakes, things would have been a lot closer. Injuries to the secondary have proven costly for the Wildcats, although freshman Tra'Mayne Bondurant has been a standout in recent weeks.


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