Solomon shoulders blame as time runs out on Arizona comeback

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Arizona redshirt freshman quarterback Anu Solomon, down and dejected, put the game, and Arizona’s 38-30 Fiesta Bowl loss to Boise State, on his shoulders.

It came down to the decisions he made, and didn’t make.

"I just got carried away, thinking I could do this all by myself," said Solomon, who threw for 335 yards and one touchdown. He also ran for a touchdown. "It’s a team game."

In a season of magical moments in huge comeback wins and improbable finishes, Solomon couldn’t come up with one final last-minute miracle as the Wildcats finished their season with two consecutive losses and a 10-4 record.

He did move Arizona 70 yards in its final drive — the bulk of those coming on a fantastic 43-yard catch by Cayleb Jones — to put the Wildcats within eight yards of a potentially tying score, but they would get no closer over the final 20 seconds.

"We had 20 seconds," Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said. "I thought we could get off three plays. You normally could get off three plays in 20 seconds. But we weren’t able to do that."

With no timeouts left, Solomon spiked the ball to kill the clock on first down, threw incomplete to David Richards on second down, then took a sack on third down rather than throw the ball away –€“ allowing the final seconds to tick off.

"We’ve got to finish better than that," Rodriguez said. "But we competed till the end.

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Arizona wanted to compete for one more snap, and for that failure, Solomon took the blame.

"Of course," he said. "I tried to put everything on my shoulders, thinking I could do everything by myself. I failed."

That was the theme for Solomon, who was as tough on himself as Boise State’s defense was.                      

"As a leader, I failed," he said. "I gotta do better, put my team in better situations."

The final play was the one that lingered on most everyone’s minds, but Solomon also threw a pair of bad interceptions — one that set up Boise State’s fourth touchdown after the Wildcats had crept within 21-7, and a pick-six that Donte Deayon returned 16 yards for Boise State’s only touchdown of the second half.

That gave Boise a 38-20 lead, but Arizona’s defense gave Solomon a chance to redeem himself. He connected with Samajie Grant on a 51-yard scoring pass to keep the Cats within reach, Casey Skowron’s third field goal made it a one possession game, and the defense held one final time to give Arizona the ball back for one last shot with 2:53 left but no timeouts.

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Arizona had been here before, pulling out victories in the final seconds.

"You have to have confidence as an offense," said senior receiver Austin Hill said. "I guess it wasn’t meant to happen today. I think we could have played a little bit better, consistently making plays. But, it didn’t happen."

Solomon, who battled a bad ankle for much of the second half of the season, said that was on him. He didn’t make some of the best reads or put the right zip on the ball.

What did he learn from this?

"I’m never going to make these kinds of mistakes (again)," he said. "I’m going to work every day starting tomorrow. I’m going to get ready for next season put my team in better situations."

Senior running back Terris Jones-Grigsby, who handled most of the running duties after freshman starter Nick Wilson was knocked out of the game with an injury, credited Solomon for hanging in there after the big early deficit.

"We started off slow, but he didn’t let that bother him," Jones-Grigsby said. "He’s always been a poised quarterback. He took control. That’s what we needed.

"But this is a team effort. You can’t put that all on Anu. I’m just glad he took it this far. I’m glad he was my quarterback."

Senior center Steven Gurrola summed up the game and the season thusly: "Every dog has his day. Everybody has to come to play. It’s football and stuff happens."

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