If you’ve watched any Arizona football this year, you might have noticed that the Wildcats have a penchant for the dramatic.
Sure, the last game comes to mind. And the fact that Arizona scored 36 points in the fourth quarter and needed a 47-yard Hail Mary as the clock expired to beat Cal certainly qualifies as dramatic.
But it wasn’t just that game. After a blowout win in their opener against UNLV, the last three for the Wildcats have been nip-and-tuck. Coach Rich Rodriguez said he’s not sure if there’s a common denominator between this team and being able to win close games. But he’s glad they do.
“I hope it’s the fact that our guys don’t worry or don’t get too concerned about the scoreboard and just play 60 minutes,” Rodriguez said. “Every coach talks about it. We talk about it quite a bit. In fact we talk about it before every game. No matter what happens, we’re going to play for 60 minutes and then we’ll look up and see what the score is.”
As the Wildcats prep for a huge showdown with No. 2 Oregon Thursday night, it’s worth taking a look at the fourth quarter of Arizona’s past three games to see just how tight things got.
Game analysis: At one point, UTSA had a 74 percent probability of winning this game. That was in the second quarter after taking a 14-13 lead. But the Wildcats battled back and took a 26-16 lead into the fourth quarter.
Fourth-quarter analysis: Things got dicey halfway through the final frame. Though Arizona’s probability of winning never dropped below 50 percent, it did dip down to 59.8 when UTSA took over at their own 20 trailing 26-23 with 5:09 left to play.
Game analysis: Despite jumping out to a 3-0 lead, Nevada never had better than a 43.6 percent chance of winning this game. The metrics account for Arizona being at home and the fact that the Wildcats can score a silly amount of points. They built a 21-6 lead in the second quarter, but Nevada came back to tie things up in the third, making things a little more uncomfortable than the home team probably would have liked.
Fourth-quarter analysis: Of the three games we’re examining here, this was the easiest fourth quarter for the Wildcats. Even after Nevada pulled to within a touchdown with 6:01 to play, its odds of winning never reached above 16.9 percent.
Tipping point: After Anu Solomon connected with Cayleb Jones on a 24-yard touchdown strike five seconds into the fourth quarter, Arizona’s win probability shot up from 63 percent to 94.4. But as the next graphic will show us, every second counts.
Game analysis: By virtue of being home, Arizona started with a 62.5 percent chance of winning. But as Cal scored point after point, that probability dropped down to the 3- and 4-percent range. Then, wackiness ensued.
Fourth quarter analysis: Even as the Wildcats began their march toward erasing a 31-16 deficit, their win probability rarely spiked. The closest they got was a 41.6 probability when Solomon and Jones hooked up for 15 yards with 2:44 left to play, cutting Cal’s lead to 45-43. That dropped almost seven percentage points after the failed two-point conversion.
Tipping point: Just before the "Hill Mary," Cal’s chances of winning were 87.9 percent. One play changed it all. Solomon and Austin Hill wrote themselves into Arizona lore with an iconic play that will fill highlight videos for years to come.