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September 13, 2008

UA holds off late comeback to go 3-0

Every week this season, GOAZCATS.com will run a simulation of each game that the Arizona Wildcats football team is involved in. The simulation will run on the Xbox 360 version of NCAA Football 2009 by pitting two CPU-controlled teams against each other.

Arizona needed a big comeback along with a pair of missed field goals from kicker James Aho in the second half to defeat New Mexico 27-24. With the comeback victory, Arizona was able to avoid a second upset at the hands of the Lobos.

Senior quarterback Willie Tuitama completed 18 of 26 passes for 232 yards, threw for one touchdown and an interception to help lead Arizona.

Tuitama threw his interception on the third play of the game but was able to rebound to have a solid performance from there on out.

Running back Nicolas Grigsby had a rough day for Arizona. Grigsby carried only 12 times for 31 yards before leaving the game in the third quarter with a shoulder injury.

Backup Nick Booth got the call in Grigsby's absence and carried the ball eight times for 27 yards and a touchdown. Freshman Keola Antolin added a three-yard score as well for the Wildcats.

Tuitama spread the ball around nicely, completing passes to nine different receivers and keeping New Mexico's defense off balance for the majority of the game.

UA picked up the victory, but it was a very tough win to acquire.

Quarterback Donovan Porterie had another big day against the Wildcats. Porterie completed 27 of 34 passes for 288 yards, one touchdown and took care of the ball well by not throwing an interception. On top of the touchdown, Porterie gave his team several scoring chances by driving down the field multiple times against the Arizona defense.

Running back Rodney Ferguson rushed for two touchdowns, one of them on a flashy 14-yard run, but only finished with 49 yards on 25 carries.

The start of the game didn't go well for Arizona. After Tuitama's early interception on the first drive of the game, Porterie needed only four plays before hitting wide receiver Jermaine McQueen on a 41-yard strike for a touchdown to give UNM a 7-0 advantage.

Tuitama followed by leading a drive that was highlighted by two passes to Terrell Turner totaling 31 yards to set up kicker Jason Bondzio, who was able to cut the lead to 7-3 on a 22-yard field goal.

After the Lobos countered with a field goal of their own to give them a 10-3 lead, the Arizona offense went three-and-out to give the ball right back to New Mexico.

Porterie led another drive with a series of short, quick throws that eventually set up a five-yard touchdown run by Ferguson to help give New Mexico a 17-3 lead.

The Wildcats would strike back almost immediately.

On the second play of the following drive, Tuitama hit Delashaun Dean on a short curl route and Dean was able to stiff arm one defender and break another tackle before racing his way to a 65-yard touchdown reception to bring UA to within 17-10.

The Wildcats appeared ready to head into the half down by one score, but the Lobos had different plans.

Porterie was able to use several quick passes to get into Arizona territory. He displayed excellent time management skills to get the Lobos into the Wildcats' red zone.

On third down and one from the 14-yard line, the Lobos ran a shotgun formation with Ferguson lined up next to Porterie. Instead of throwing, they ran a draw to Ferguson.

It appeared that both linebacker Xavier Kelley and safety Nate Ness had him stopped in the backfield for a loss but Ferguson was too elusive on the play as he would juke and stutter-step his way for a 14-yard touchdown run.

The momentum UA had gained was quickly ripped back away from them as the Lobos took a 24-10 going into halftime.

The second half was a completely different story for the Arizona defense.

On the first possession of the second half, a sack by defensive tackle Earl Mitchell forced a punt and the momentum suddenly turned back in the favor of Arizona.

Arizona's ensuing drive only went 10 yards further but it was close enough to give Bondzio a shot at a very long field goal. Bondzio's 57-yard attempt split the uprights as the Wildcats cut the New Mexico lead to 24-13.

Another Arizona sack, this time from D'Aundre Reed, helped cause a three-and-out as the Wildcats defense continued its impressive second half play.

The following drive put a scare into the Wildcats when Grigsby went down with his shoulder injury. Grigsby would not return.

However, Booth picked up the running game nicely and he concluded an impressive drive by Tuitama with an eight-yard touchdown carry as the Wildcats were back in business, down 24-20.

Porterie would drive New Mexico back into scoring range but this time it was unable to capitalize as Aho missed a 47-yard field goal and left UA with good field position. .

Tuitama used short passes to Turner and Mike Thomas to move down field. Booth also added 23 yards on the ground during that drive. Inside the five-yard line, Tuitama gave the ball to Antolin and he darted through the small hole he had for a three-yard touchdown to give Arizona a 27-24 lead.

New Mexico would get the ball back with 1:27 remaining in the game and Porterie would get to work.

Early in the drive, it looked as if Arizona ended the game when backup running back Paul Baker fumbled the ball at the Lobos' 32-yard line. The replayed proved something different as it showed Baker's knee hitting the ground before the ball came out.

Porterie followed by leading New Mexico on a long drive all the way to the Wildcats' two-yard line. It appeared New Mexico was primed to win the game but Baker was stuffed behind the lien for a loss of two.

The Lobos' thought they had won the game when Porterie hit McQueen for a touchdown with 12 seconds left. Instead, tackle Terrance Pennington was called for holding when he virtually tackled Brooks Reed.

The costly penalty negated the touchdown and brought the ball back to the 14-yard line. Porterie's last pass was thrown out of bounds as he couldn't find anyone open but it appeared New Mexico was ready to send the game into overtime with a short field goal.

Aho came out to tie the game, but instead his short attempt flew wide-right as time expired and Arizona held on for the 27-24 victory.

After being outscored 24-10 first half, Arizona went on a 17-0 run in the second half. The Wildcats defense tightened up a bit and didn't allow the Lobos into the end zone in the second half but were also fortunate that Aho's accuracy disappeared in the second half.

With the win Arizona was able to stay perfect heading into conference play. It will play UCLA on Saturday, September 20th at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.

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