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November 22, 2008

Simulation: UA comeback falls short

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.

Oregon State started its scoring early and was able to hold off a near-comeback by Arizona as the Beavers were able to defeat the Wildcats 31-28 at Arizona Stadium.

Lyle Moevao had a solid game, completing 28 of 36 passes for 297 yards and two touchdowns. Moevao's favorite target was receiver Sammie Stroughter, who caught nine passes for 166 yards and a score.

Jacquizz Rodgers was held to only 37 yards on the ground but did score on a run and caught a touchdown pass as well.

Wildcats quarterback Willie Tuitama had a solid game but committed a late turnover that ended UA's hopes of making a comeback. Tuitama completed 24 out of 38 passes for 225 yards and two touchdowns.

Tuitama's favorite target was, once again, tight end Rob Gronkowski. The sophomore tight end caught six passes for 94 yards and a touchdown while wide receiver Mike Thomas had five grabs for 84 yards and score of his own.

The ground attack led by Nicolas Grigsby and Keola Antolin was held to a combined 84 yards on the ground but the duo did combine for a pair of touchdown runs.

OSU got off to a quick start early as Moevao was able to hook up with Stroughter on a 45-yard touchdown strike to get the Beavers out to a 7-0 advantage and then - less than two minutes later -- followed an Arizona three-and-out with a 36-yard touchdown on a screen pass to Rodgers.

With UA finding itself in an early 14-0 hole, the offense began to go to the air.

Tuitama led a drive to start the second quarter by hooking up with Gronkowski three times, capped off by a 26-yard touchdown pass to cut the OSU lead to 14-7 and that's where the game would stand going into the half.

Oregon State struck first in the second half when UA wide receiver Terrell Reese fumbled the ball and OSU defensive back Keenan Lewis recovered the ball and took it 64 yards for a Beaver touchdown as Oregon State increased its lead to 21-7.

The Wildcats would strike back on the next drive, which was started by a 48-yard kickoff return from Thomas to put Arizona into Beaver territory. That would be followed by two short passes to Grigsby and Terrell Turner and on the throw to Turner, the junior wide receiver was able to break two tackles and move the ball to the Oregon State 22-yard line.

Three plays later, Antolin scored on a four-yard touchdown to bring UA within seven at 21-14.

The Beavers added a 52-yard field goal from kicker Justin Kahut to make it 24-14 before making the Wildcats punt on the following drive.

With Oregon State up two scores and in possession of the ball, the Beavers went to the running game and used a couple of short passes in between to set up a three-yard score by Rodgers to put OSU up 31-14.

In the fourth quarter, UA needed the crafty special teams play from Thomas to get back into the game. Thomas took the ensuing kickoff to the Beavers' 39-yard line and Tuitama led Arizona inside the red zone. That's where Grigsby was able to shake a defender and break a tackle on his way to a six-yard score as the Wildcats drew closer at 31-21.

After making Oregon State go three and out while only seeing just a little over a minute run off the clock, Thomas would return a punt all the way down to the OSU 16-yard line before Tuitama hit him on the next play for a 16-yard touchdown pass, cutting the Arizona deficit to only three at 31-28.

After two tackles-for-loss by defensive tackle Earl Mitchell, the Wildcats got the ball back with no timeouts and a little over a minute left at their own 38-yard line.

After Tuitama hit Gronkowski for a 19-yard gain, it looked as if Arizona was in business and, at the very least, on its way to tying it. That was before Tuitama's pass - intended for Thomas - was tipped in the air by OSU linebacker Bryant Cornell and intercepted by cornerback Brandon Hughes to end UA's comeback attempt.

In the end, it was Arizona's two turnovers that cost the Wildcats the game as one gave OSU seven points while the other prevented UA from possibly winning.

Jason Nimrichter


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