While fans of defensive football may have wanted to avert their eyes, Arizona’s comeback against Nevada in the New Mexico Bowl was as exciting an introduction to the bowl season as one could imagine.
The Wildcats fell behind 21-0, came back, fell behind big again, and somehow scored 14 points in 42 seconds for a 49-48 win.
Its Albuquerque setting and the many bizarre twists were reminiscent of a Breaking Bad episode, right down to the in-fighting among teammates. Arizona’s Tevin Hood and Cody Ippolito went at it on the sidelines. Both were sent to the locker room.
An outstanding performance from quarterback Cody Fajardo — he scored four touchdowns and was just shy of 400 total yards — proved to be for naught. His last play was a desperation heave, intercepted by Arizona’s Marquis Flowers.
Flowers recovered an onside kick moments before that gave the Wildcats possession, trailing 48-42 with 42 seconds left. UA quarterback Matt Scott went to work, leading a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it drive that culminated in his fourth touchdown pass.
Scott’s elation after engineering an astounding comeback personified what makes bowl season great. Malcontents lament the existence of 35 bowl games, but a redshirt senior like Scott had an opportunity to end his career with a happy ending. He lost the starting job to Nick Foles in early 2009, languished on the bench, but was rewarded for his patience.
Bowl season is an opportunity for seniors to cash in years of dedication in a final moment of gridiron glory. Another senior went out on a similar high note during Saturday’s slate. Utah State’s Kerwynn Williams set the bar high for running backs this postseason with his performance against Toledo.
The Famous Idaho Potato Bowl has been renowned in recent years for its competitive contests. This was not one of them. Toledo was down just 13-9 going into the fourth quarter, before the Aggies erupted. Williams’ 28-yard touchdown rush set off a huge stanza that cemented the greatest season in Aggie history. Utah State’s 11 wins are the program’s most ever, ensuring a top 25 ranking to close out the campaign. USU also got the first bowl win since 1993, a feat that eluded the Aggies in most heartbreaking fashion a season ago.
Utah State embarks on a new era next season, when it joins the Mountain West Conference. The future is uncertain; USU rejoins former WAC partners Fresno State and Nevada, both of which return key contributors in 2013. Quarterback Chuckie Keeton gives USU a solid foundation. The sophomore passed for 225 yards and rushed for another 92, including a 62-yard touchdown in the first half.
The Aggies will be without Williams, but the senior capped his career in spectacular fashion. His 235 yards were more than Ka’Deem Carey and Stefphon Jefferson, the nation’s two leading ball carriers, went for in the day’s earlier bowl game.