Game Recap: Timely in Tucson
Erik Lorig
Erik Lorig
Contributing Writer
Posted Oct 21, 2007
Jon Forbes, Jr.


Jon Forbes, Jr. is TheBootleg.com's Jonny-on-the-spot, providing cloud-nine-sitting Cardinalmaniacs™ with a terrific recap of the team's taking-care-of-business effort down in Tucson last night. Don't look now, but the Bow Boys™ are showing a resiliency unknown to mankind, this time overcoming turnovers and a heavily-depleted roster to "Bear Down" and tough out a valiant victory in the desert.

Arizona Game Recap: The Return of The Cardiac Cardinal™!

Stanford Makes Timely Plays In Desert Win

Stanford extended its winning streak in Tucson to four straight with a come-from-behind 21-20 victory over the Arizona Wildcats. Both teams made their share of mistakes but it was Stanford who capitalized on its opponent's errors, improving to a respectable 3-4 (2-3).

"Our guys hung in there," said Stanford head coach Jim Harbaugh. "First of all, there is no such thing as an ugly win. There were too many penalties and turnovers, but our guys found a way to win."

"We had the opportunities, but we failed to capitalize and put the game away," said Mike Stoops, head coach for Arizona.

The win over the Wildcats was just second game the Cardinal had played away from Stanford Stadium in 2007. That other contest was Stanford shocking 24-23 triumph over USC at the Los Angeles Coliseum.

Stanford may boast some of the nation's best academics, but Jason Evans and Tavita Pritchard had a rather unscientific explanation for the team's road successes.

"It's the white jerseys and the red pants!" said Evans of Stanford's away game attire.

"We like the red pants," added Pritchard.

Arizona won the coin toss and elected to defer to Stanford. The offense picked up 25 yards on the first two plays before stalling as Pritchard was sacked on third & six, forcing a punt. Returner Antoine Cason fielded the ball at the four yard-line before fumbling at the ten. Cardinalmaniacs'™ hopes of a Stanford recovery were quickly dashed as Wildcat Michael Klyce recovered the ball at the Arizona six.

Wildcat quarterback Willie Tuitama quickly got Arizona out of its field position hole. Operating from the gun, Tuitama completed his first five passes, with two going for 11-yard gains

The offense got help later on the drive when facing third & 13. Tuitama failed to connect with Delashaun Dean on a fade route along the sideline, but Levirt Griffin was flagged for a roughing the passer penalty, which gave the Wildcats a drive-salvaging first down.

Arizona drove all of the way down to the Stanford seven yard-line but were forced to settle for a field goal attempt after a pass to Terrell Turner, who was shadowed by Wapomo Osaisai, fell incomplete. Jason Bondzio's 25-yard kick was good, giving the hosts a 3-0 lead 7:00 into the game.

The two teams combined for five consecutive three & outs on their susequent drives, discounting a personal foul first down on Stanford's first play from scrimmage following the field goal. Ottovegio continued to pin the Wildcats deep in their own territory, with Arizona starting its two drives at their own 14, 10, and 16 yard-lines.

Arizona broke the first-down drought on its first drive of the second quarter when Tuitama completed a pass to Terrell Turner for 13 yards on 3rd & 8 from their own 18 yard-line. The Wildcats then marched down the field behind the running game of impressive and cat-quick freshman Nicolas Grigsby, who ran three times for 42 yards.

Yet it would be a wide receiver who would produce Arizona's first touchdown on the evening. On second & six from the Stanford 21, Tuitama tossed the ball to receiver Turner, who subsequently flipped the ball to another receiver, Mike Thomas, on the double reverse. Thomas saw nothing but open space in front of him and easily scored for the 21-yard touchdown 4:00 into the second quarter. FSN analyst Todd Husak called out "walk-in" as soon as the exchange was made, knowing it would be an easy TD. 

Stanford was in a 10-0 hole and the offense continued to sputter, going three & out on the ensuing drive after the touchdown. As was the case in the win over USC, the defense created momentum for the Cardinal with a key interception, which came in Arizona's first drive after the touchdown.

The Wildcats had third & two from its 44 yard-line, after Tuitama overthrew a wide-open Dean before connecting with Turner for an eight-yard gain. The offense took a risk, throwing on third & short, and ball-hawking cornerback Nick Sanchez made them pay. Sanchez intercepted a pass intended for tight end Ron Gronkowski, giving Stanford possession 10 yards short of midfield.

"I was dropped back and I read the quarterback the whole play," said Sanchez of the interception. "I wanted to take it to the house, but they hit me."

Sparked by the turnover, the offense finally began to move the chains. Jason Evans ran the ball twice for 13 yards on two plays before Tyrone McGraw added another 13 for the Cardinal.

"We got a lot from Jason tonight," said Harbaugh. "I thought his vision was very good, especially on his cutbacks."

Two plays later, Richard Sherman lined up wide to Pritchard's right side. Evan Moore came in motion and joined Sherman on the right. Sherman dashed straight past the secondary to the far corner of the endzone and Pritchard threw a perfect lob pass over the defense for the 33-yard touchdown.

"If you put the ball up for Richard Sherman, he'll go up and get it," said Pritchard.

After struggling to move the ball on its first five drives, Stanford had needed a mere 2:09 to travel 60 yards following the interception. The Cardinal trailed 10-7 with 6:20 remaining in the half.

On their ensuing drive, Arizona faced third & 16 from their own 29-yard-line. Tuitama underthrew a deep ball to Turner, who picked up interference from Osaisai. Harbaugh was visibly unhappy with the call, which gave the Wildcats 15 yards and an automatic first down.

Despite the disappointing penalty, the defense collected itself. Udeme Udofia sacked Tuitama for the second time in the game on the following play.

"It's always nice to come home," said Udofia, who is from Scottsdale, Ariz. "I liked being able to play in front of extra family and friends who can come to the game."

On the next play, cornerback Tim Sims stopped Dean for a two-yard loss on a reception. On third & 20, Tuitama found Thomas for 18 yards, giving the Arizona coaching staff an interesting decision on fourth & two at the Stanford 48.

The Wildcats elected to roll the dice once more, lining up in the I-formation to try to make the first down. After checking off, Tuitama made a short pass to the right, where he had Thomas in single-coverage. Osaisai quickly closed on the receiver and the ball came loose, causing Arizona to turn the ball over on downs.

"They make a lot of checks, which is a staple of that offense," said Sanchez of Arizona's offense.

Arizona coach Mike Stoops himself was apparently surprised by his QB's call of  choice.

Stanford took possession with 2:12 remaining in the half but with all three of its timeouts. Pritchard threw on the Cardinal's first three plays of the drive, completing all three for 21 yards.

The offense kept the ball on the ground for its next four plays. Jason Evans ran for seven yards up the middle on third & one before he gained another five yards on his next carry, which took Stanford to the Wildcats' 19. The Cardinal then called its first timeout of the half with 0:32 left.

Despite the dwindling clock, Stanford kept running the ball, which seemed to catch the Cat defense by surprise. Following the timeout, Stanford spread the field with four receivers to the left and one to the right. Pritchard faked a throw before he handed the ball to Evans on the delay, who found the middle of the field open for 13 yards down to the six.

With the clock temporarily stopped to move the chains, Stanford lined up once again and Evans gained four more yards down to the two-yard-line with 0:12 on the clock. After calling timeout, Pritchard failed to connect with Evan Moore, giving Stanford third & goal. Fittingly, Evans completed the drive with a two-yard plunge with 0:05 left in the first half. Stanford took a 14-10 advantage into the locker room, courtesy of two touchdowns on its final two drives of the half.

"We love doing the two-minute drive, at least I do," said Pritchard. "(The offensive line was) telling coach to just keep running the ball."

Stanford's lead, however, did not last long into the third quarter.

The Wildcats successfully charged down the field using a balanced running and passing attack. Nicolas Grigsby ran for 35 yards on six rushes. Tuitama completed all five of his pass attempts and connected with Turner, Thomas, Reese, Dean, and A.J. Simmons. The drive ended with the pass to Simmons as the Wildcats scored from three yards out on third down to retake the lead at 17-14.

The drive was discouraging for the Stanford defense as Arizona drove 85 yards in 4:07 on 11 plays. The Cardinal offense responded by moving the chains three times before giving Cardinalmaniacs™ a few Maalox Moments™.

On second & 10 from the Arizona 45, Pritchard attempted to pitch the ball to Evans but failed to make the exchange. Evans recovered the fumble, which netted Stanford a 10-yard loss. Pritchard was intercepted on 3rd and 20 but the Wildcats were cited for an illegal hands to the facemask penalty, giving Stanford a fresh set of downs.

Three plays later, the luck ran out for Stanford. Pritchard under-threw a pass over the middle, which was intercepted by Spencer Larsen at the 18 yard-line, ending the 5:01 drive.

Following an Arizona punt, the offense turned the ball over once again. Sherman caught a tipped pass but fumbled the ball after he was hit by the do-everything Larsen. Yaniv Barnett made the recovery to give the Wildcats possession at the Stanford 31.

The defense bailed out the offense by forcing the Wildcats to a three & out, setting up a 49-yard field goal attempt for Bondzio. The kicker delivered from career-best distance to extend the Arizona advantage to 20-14 with 2:28 left in the third quarter.

Still trailing by a single score, Stanford continued to make crucial mistakes. After the kickoff, backup tight end Patrick Bowe, Jr. was flagged for a personal foul. A 15-yard reception by Sherman moved the ball to the Stanford 25 yard-line before the Cardinal turned the ball over for the third time in three drives. Pritchard forced a pass into triple-coverage and was intercepted by Nate Ness. The safety scampered for 26 yards on the return, giving the Wildcats first & ten at the Cardinal 16 yard-line.

Once again, the defense made Arizona go three & out. Bondzio lined up for a 29-yard field goal try. Bondzio followed his career-best kick by missing wide-left on the last play of the third quarter. The failure to capitalize on the interception kept it a one-score game with the Wildcats leading 20-14 and would prove critical to the game's outcome..

"It was basically the game with nine minutes left," said Stoops on the potential impact the three points would have had.

Stanford nearly committed turnover number four on just as many possessions when Pritchard fumbled the exchange on the second play of the fourth quarter. Fortunately, he made his own recovery. His pass to Austin Gunder on 3rd & 12 only netted nine yards, forcing a punt. Ottovegio came through once again for the Cardinal as he booted the ball 50 yards, which was fair-caught by Cason at the Wildcat 23.

After Grigsby ran for nine yards on two carries, Arizona encountered third & 1. They then lined up in the I-formation with three tight ends. Grigsby attempted to turn outside to the left for the first down but was tripped-up by a surging Sanchez for a loss of three. Chris Hobbs returned the ensuing punt 16 yards, giving Stanford excellent field position at its own 47.

And suddenly, the unstoppable Cardinal offense from the end of the first half returned. Evans started the drive with a 14-yard rush on a delayed hand-off. Two plays later, Stanford lined up in a one-running back and two-tight end set.

Next, Pritchard threaded the needle to find Doug Baldwin for a gain of 11 and another first down. On second & 12, Pritchard found tight end Austin Gunder for seven more.

Then on third & five, Evan Moore did his best imitation of Richard Sherman's catch on fourth & 20 against USC by making a grab just beyond the first down marker and holding onto the ball after taking a substantial hit. (Any Moore critics want to concede that he showed some great toughness on that play?)

The depleted backfield became even thinner on the next play, when Evans went down with an apparent left knee injury on a three yard gain to the Arizona 11. He was hit helmet-to-the back of the knee by an Arizona tackler and it looked very bad at the time. While he did not return for the rest of the game, Evans downplayed his injury during a post-game interview.

"I'm doing okay," said Evans. "It's just a little weak. I should be back by tomorrow."

Tyrone McGraw took over for Evans and rushed for three yards on his first carry and nearly scored on his second, gaining seven yards to inside the one-yard-line. He was stuffed on first and goal and was replaced by Jeremy Stewart, who had not set foot on the field to that point due to injury. Stewart scored on his only play with the one-yard touchdown, tying the game at 20. Belch's critical extra point was good and Stanford took the lead for the second time in the game at 21-20 with 5:54 remaining.

"I prepared like I was going to start," said Stewart. "(The shoulder) doesn't feel too bad. It has gotten a lot better since last week. Main thing I was worried about was contact."

Arizona, needing just a field goal to break the hearts of their guests, converted on third & eight from their own 22 when Tuitama found Anthony Johnson open for a 26-yard gain. They managed nine yards on their next three plays, setting up a fourth & inches at the Stanford 43.

The Arizona coaching staff elected to go for it. Tuitama kept the ball on a quarterback sneak but was seemingly stopped short by Chris Horn and Clinton Snyder. Despite a generous spot, Arizona was denied the first down. The officials reviewed the spot, but let the original mark stand.

Stanford could not put its opponent away and failed to get a first down. Ottovegio punted from his own 44 and delivered a 42-yard punt, which was fair-caught by Cason at the Arizona 14.

Last call for the Cats. The ensuing Arizona "drive" lasted just one play. Tuitama completed a pass to Johnson on the right side, who gained five yards before he was hit by Sanchez. The ball came loose and seldom-seen, but heads-up Will Powers recovered the fumble, giving Stanford possession at the Wildcat 22.

"They had been (running that play) all game so I was ready for it," said Sanchez. "I came up, I hit him, I just tired to pull it out and it popped out and I saw a bunch of guys jump on it."

McGraw then carried the ball on five consecutive plays in attempt to run out the remaining time. However, Stanford was left with fourth and six from the Arizona seven with the play clock one second ahead of the play clock.

The team let the play clock run down to one second before calling timeout. Strangely, the officials reset the game clock to three seconds. Pritchard took the snap and went to a knee Somehow, the play only took one second, and Arizona took over on downs with 0:02 left.

"I thought there was one second on the clock, but then they switched it, and I didn't see that," said Pritchard. "I took a couple of steps back, took a knee, looked up, and there were two seconds on the clock."

"Somebody came off the edge and (Pritchard) had to take a knee. We were just aware (that the clock was changed to three seconds). How the clock went back to three, I really don't know. Strange, strange deal." said Harbaugh as he briefly glanced in the direction of the press box.

Arizona lined up at their 12-yard-line hoping for an unlikely score. Tuitama completed a 14-yard pass to Chris Jennings, who then began a series of laterals. There would be no flashbacks to 1982 as Chike Amajoyi made the eventual tackle to seal the game for Stanford.

Harbaugh attributed Stanford's lockdown of the Arizona offense following the first drive of the second half to defensive coordinator Scott Shafer.

"Arizona hurt us early with screens, but I thought Scott Shafer did a good job taking that away as the game went on," said Harbaugh.

Harbaugh said Ottovegio's punts and the defense's timely stops helped overcome Arizona's 368-277 advantage in total offense.

"(Jay) has been great all year," said Harbaugh. "We were outgained and had more turnovers, but if we look at some of the hidden yardage - the two fourth down stops and Jay's ability to put the ball inside the ten - we made them work the long field."

Jason Evans credited his teammates on defense, who kept Stanford in the game by limiting Arizona's ability to score and giving the offense good field position.

"I love our defense," said Evans. "They are the best 'red zone' defense I have seen in a long time. They stop everybody when they need to and give us the ball the ball back so we can score."

And while Stanford generated just three sacks for 21 yards lost, the defense was able to put pressure on Tuitama, which helped the linebackers and secondary in their pass coverage.

"If you're not getting the sacks, you can at least get pressure and hits on the quarterback," said Udofia. "The guys did a great job pressuring Willie (Tuitama) and forcing a couple of bad throws and not giving as much time as he wanted."

"This is a huge win for us," said Sanchez. "We turned things around, and hopefully we can get into a bowl game."

Game Balls:

Offense Jason Evans: 21 rushes for 84 yards and one touchdown. Also, 17 receiving yards from two catches.

Defense Nick Sanchez: Nine tackles, one huge tackle-for-loss. One interception and one fumbled caused.

Special Teams Jay Ottovegio: Seven punts for 322 yards (46.0 average). 45.2 net yards on punts. Five punts inside the 20-yard-line, four fair catches, and zero touchbacks. Awesome!

Random Factoids: 

» In its last game in Tucson, a 20-16 win in 2005, Stanford was also outgained in total yardage, 271 to 195

» Also in that game, Stanford found itself trying to burn the clock while holding a late lead. On fourth down, Stanford lined up in punt formation. Ottovegio scrambled around the back of the end zone to kill as much time as possible before running out of bounds for the intentional safety with 0:17 remaining.

» The road team has now won seven of the last eight contests between Stanford and Arizona.

» Nick Sanchez's nine tackles were second-best on the team, with Bo McNally leading the team with 10 (eight solo). It was the highest number of tackles Sanchez has made in a single game in 2007. In the 2005 game in Tucson, Sanchez led the team with 11 tackles.

» Evans' 78 and McGraw's 54 rushing yards were each career bests.

» Also a personal-best: Pritchard's 181 passing yards.

» Jeremy Stewart's one-yard touchdown was the first of his career.

» Arizona's loss is certain to add to the dissatisfaction among Wildcat fans. Overheard from the stands: "Can we trade coaches? Our coach is horrible," said a heckler, who envies Stanford for having Jim Harbaugh. How about that? Other schools wishing they had our guy - hadn't heard that during the previous five years! 


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