Arizona can't slow Colorado's Stewart, falls 48-29
Arizona came in intent on keeping Colorado running back Rodney Stewart in its sights. The Wildcats still couldn't catch him.
Stewart ran for 181 yards and three touchdowns and threw for another on a trick play, helping Colorado beat Arizona 48-29 on Saturday and keeping the Wildcats winless in five road games this season.
''He's a shifty little back and he runs hard,'' Arizona linebacker Paul Vassallo said. ''There were a couple of plays we did well, where we got him down at the line or behind the line of scrimmage. But then there were several plays where he got loose, broke some tackles and made big plays. He definitely played well today.''
Safety Robert Golden said Arizona's defensive preparations had centered on containing Stewart but the Wildcats fell woefully short when it came to applying those lessons on game day.
''We knew he was a powerful back and we were going to have to wrap him up and make tackles,'' Golden said. ''I feel like we gave him a lot of stuff, but he made a lot of great plays, too.
''I just feel like they came out and played harder than we did and competed better than we did. That was just the bottom line.''
While Stewart did most of the damage, Colorado quarterback Tyler Hansen also found ways to gash the Wildcats' defense. He threw two TD passes and caught Stewart's touchdown toss on a flea-flicker as the Buffaloes (2-9) recorded their first Pac-12 win after six losses in their new league since bolting the Big 12 last year.
It was another demoralizing outcome for the beaten-down Wildcats (2-8, 1-7). They came in as double-digit favorites but fell behind quickly and their comeback attempt wasn't helped by the sustained 45 mph winds that gusted to 71 mph in the fourth quarter.
Interim coach Tim Kish dismissed the fierce winds as a factor and suggested instead that the constant losses had sapped some of Arizona's fighting spirit.
''We had an opportunity to come in here and compete hard for 60 minutes and I'm not sure, once we watch the film, that that's exactly what we're going to see,'' Kish said. ''I just think we had some moments in there where we weren't playing on edge.
''When Stewart started breaking a couple of those runs and some things weren't going well for us offensively, I just felt like there was a letdown in there. It wasn't very pretty.''
Arizona's Nick Foles was 35 for 53 for 352 yards, becoming Arizona's career leader in yards passing with a total of 9,289. But he also had three interceptions and lost a fumble to go with his one touchdown.
''Things just aren't going our way. They haven't gone our way this whole year,'' Foles said, adding that he wished his eclipsing of the career passing record at Arizona had been accompanied by a victory.
''The most important thing is winning the game. I could care less about any record,'' Foles said.
The Wildcats trailed by 24 in the third quarter but cut their deficit to 34-23. Linebacker Tra'Mayne Bondurant returned an interception 29 yards for a touchdown and then Foles completed all six of his passes for 68 yards on an 88-yard drive that ended with his 11-yard strike to David Douglas. However, Douglas couldn't hold onto the 2-point conversion pass.
The Buffaloes went 80 yards in six plays with Stewart taking the handoff and scoring from 11 yards out to make it 41-23, then the Wildcats scored again on Ka'Deem Carey's second rushing touchdown, and again the 2-point conversion pass fell incomplete.
After the Wildcats recovered the onside kick, Jason Espinoza's interception at midfield led to Stewart's fourth touchdown, a 9-yard scamper.
The Buffaloes benefited from a couple of questionable calls on two TD drives as they built a 34-10 lead, their biggest of the season.
Arizona punter Kyle Dugandzic fielded a low snap from Josh Elias and trapped the ball on the grass. The officials ruled that before he recovered and got the punt off, his knee also touched the turf, downing the ball at the Wildcats 38. Although television replays showed his knee never touched, the play wasn't overruled.
Three snaps later, tailback Josh Ford burst through the middle for a 29-yard score that put the Buffs ahead 20-10 at the half. There was also a questionable personal foul call against the Wildcats defense that figured in another Colorado score.
High winds ahead of a winter storm wreaked havoc, especially in the kicking game, but also in the passing game, causing some throws to sail and others to sink. The goal post in the north end zone whipsawed much of the day and there were constant swirls of trash tumbling across the field, along with a couple of marching band members' black hats.
Before the game, tents were prohibited from tailgating parties and some events with bounce houses and other inflatables were scrubbed. Even the kicking tee was tipped over by the winds during warm-ups.
Kish was emphatic when he said the wind didn't factor into the outcome, however. He added pointedly, ''The team that won today was the team that played the hardest.''