Cats fight to the end

The Arizona Wildcats played their best 60 minutes of football this season, but came up just short, falling to #19 TCU 13-10 in overtime. The Wildcats played stellar defense and got a solid performance from their struggling offense in the game. In the end it was turnovers and the mistakes of youth that got the best of the Wildcats.

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Despite a close loss, the Cats took a lot of positives from the game. They gave a top-25 team all they could handle and played balanced football for the first time since the season opener against UTEP.

"We played like a team for the first time all year," said Clay Hardt who led the team with 13 tackles. "WE played like a team for the full game."

The Wildcats may not have the "W", but they did earn the respect of the fans in attendance. A large group of fans congregated near the locker room entrance and gave the team a round of applause and praise. It was quite a different scene than the angry group of hecklers who amassed in the same area the past two home games.

The Wildcats held the 10-7 lead late in the game but had enough fight left in them to force overtime. The Frogs went on a 13 play, 68-yard drive that concluded in a 24-yard field goal by Nick Browne that tied things up.

Arizona initially appeared to hold the Horned Frogs on a third and four, but a pass interference penalty kept the drive alive.

In overtime the Wildcats showed confidence in their true freshman quarterback. Kris Heavner lined up in shotgun on both plays, but was unfortunately picked off on second down.

TCU took over and ran three times up the middle to set up a 36-yard field goal to win the game.

The Kris Heavner experiment seemed to work. It wasn't a perfect game, but the true freshman showed a lot of poise and composure in his first collegiate start. Heavner made his share of mistakes, but made big plays as well. He was intercepted twice inside the redzone and again in overtime, but he also sparked the offense at key times.

With Kris Heavner in there we make plays." said Clarence Farmer. "He did good. I'm glad he stayed in there the whole game. If you ask me he gets an 'A'."

Heavner finished the game 14-29 for 276 yards. Despite the three interceptions, Heavner led the Cats to 10 first downs and 309 yards of offense. Not exactly staggering numbers, but a vast improvement over the past few weeks where the unit struggled to move the ball at all.

The running game continued to struggle, but was just efficient enough to keep some heat off Heavner. The team rushed for just 33 yards, losing just 15 on sacks.

In fact line play was key. The Arizona patchwork line was very effective. For the most part they gave Heavner the time he needed and did an adequate job on the run. They didn't open a ton of huge holes, but they kept the talented TCU line from getting penetration.

The real story was the defense. The much-beleaguered unit came to play. They shoed hustle and enthusiasm that had been missing in recent weeks and were hitting as well as they have in years. TCU was able to move the ball, but were inconsistent inside Arizona territory.

"We talked about finishing out a game and we came out to try and do that," said Matt Molina.

The key was the Wildcats' ability to shut down the option attack. Clay Hardt and the Arizona defensive ends did a remarkable job containing TCU's dangerous formation.

The Wildcats tried a trick play to start the game, but instead of giving the team a spark, it gave TCU great field position. Carr took the handoff but gave the ball to Lance Relford on the reverse. Relford then tried to pass but his wobbly attempt was picked off by Mark Walker at the TCU 44.

Following a missed field goal, TCU took over at their own 20 and out together their first long drive of the contest. Two long runs got the Frogs deep into Arizona territory. First Merrill took a misdirection play 34 yards to get the Horned Frogs over midfield. The next play Hassell kept on the option and scooted 27 yards. Then the defense took over to force a field goal, but Nick Browne hit the upright on the final play of the first quarter.

A strange turnover set the Wildcats up at the TCU 3. Punt returner Cory Rodgers fumbled the kick but was able to track it down and started upfield only to have the ball come loose again, into the paws of Copeland Bryan. The Cats failed to convert however. Heavner was blitzed and hit as he threw. The contact affected the pass and TCU's Marvin Godbolt picked it off at the Arizona two.

It didn't take long for TCU to take advantage. On first down the Frogs faked the run and the defensive backs bit on the fake. Hassell went deep to Reggie Harrell who had gotten behind the Arizona secondary and the junior raced for a 98-yard touchdown.

Arizona made it a game early in the third. The defense was holding their own and the Cats took over at their own 42 following a punt. The first play of the drive the Cats threw a tight end screen and the athletic junior did the rest, racing 58 yards for the game tying score.

It looked as if TCU would rebound from the score when Hassell found Cody McCarty over the middle and the big tight end rumbled for 54 yards. TCU was efficient in the red zone, but received a delay of game on fourth and one and missed the ensuing field goal.

The Wildcats took their first lead in four weeks when Bobby Gill connected on a 30-yard field goal with 10:11 to play in the game. Heavner set things up when he found Biren Ealy on a slant pattern and the sophomore broke a tackle, picking up 44 yards in the process. The offense stalled after that, actually fumbling on third own, but were close enough for the short field goal.

Things don't get any easier for Arizona, next week they head to Pullman, Washington for a game against Washington State. The Cougars are the fifth straight ranked team the Cats will face in as many weeks. For this young team confidence is high.

"Things are starting to come around," Farmer said. "We're starting to click."


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