Before that Kovalcheck had looked great. He led the Wildcats to a pair of touchdowns to get within three.
All told he was 21-37 for 255 yards and a pair of scores. He was also plagued by no fewer than four drops.
The sophomore passer hit Brad Wood on a 21-yard touchdown pass on the second to last play of the third quarter. Wood got open in the seam and Kovalcheck lofted a nice pass over a streaking defender that landed in his tight end's hands. In the fourth quarter the Cats drove down inside the Ute five, but faced a difficult choice but decided to go for it on fourth and goal from the one and a great second effort by Gilbert Harris got the Cats within three with just over nine minutes to play.
The backbreaker may have come midway through the third. Kovalcheck made one of his only bad decisions of the day. He threw into triple coverage and Eric Weddle strolled into the end zone.
The Cats tried to intimidate the Utes with big hits and physical play and the ploy worked for about 10 minutes. 18-year old Brian Johnson settled down and the Utes adjusted the offense.
For the first quarter the Ute offense resembled the Oregon offense that offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig coached a year ago. As soon as the Utes went back to the spread option that they used in the undefeated season a year ago.
With the game tied at three, the Utes struck on the first big play of the night. Johnson ran the option out of the shotgun and then shoveled the ball inside to Ganther who rumbled 47 yards for the game's first touchdown. Arizona was anemic on offense in the first half, but started the second half strong. The moved right down the field and a pass interference call in the endzone gave the Cats the ball inside the five. Two penalties pushed the Wildcats back but instead of self destructing, Kovalcheck found a wide open Mike Thomas in the end zone to tie the game at 10.
Thomas had a remarkable breakout game, catching seven passes for 92 yards and the score. Fellow undersized Texan Syndric Steptoe added six catches for 90 yards.
The Cats did not hold the momentum for very long. The very next drive saw the Utes take it right at the Wildcat defense. Brent Casteel ended it quickly, taking an option pitch around the right side for a 59-yard score.