Cal football falls to Arizona, 49-45, after Wildcats connect on last-second Hail Mary

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Locked into a 45-43 shootout with just 52 seconds left on the clock, Arizona had fought its way back into a game it had no business being in. With the football on the Wildcats’ 30-yard line, freshman quarterback Anu Solomon heaved a ball deep downfield for Cayleb Johnson — complete. Field-goal range.

But a flag. Johnson pushed off the defender. Offensive pass interference. The play came back.

The Bears’ defense forced a fourth down just a few plays later, but Solomon converted on a 20-yard pass to Austin Hill. The Wildcats ran to the line and spiked the football. Four seconds remained.

Solomon took the snap and rolled to his right, looking for the miracle his team needed. With the clock expiring, he heaved it toward the end zone, a high-arcing ball that hung in the air while nearly 46,000 fans in attendance at Arizona Stadium held their collective breath.

The ball dropped right into Austin Hill’s arms.

Catch.

Pandemonium.

Arizona defeated Cal on Saturday night, 49-45, as Solomon and Hill connected on a Hail Mary. The loss is the first for the Bears this season and extends a losing streak against Pac-12 teams to 15 games. Arizona keeps its own undefeated season alive — now with a 4-0 record.

“We played tough for 59 minutes and 56 seconds and unfortunately it was not enough,” said quarterback Jared Goff.

The Wildcats led for exactly zero seconds in the game. Cal came out so quickly, it looked like the game was over at halftime. Forty-three seconds into the Bears’ clash with the Wildcats, Cal scored on a 44-yard run as Daniel Lasco broke free down the right sideline. With blocking in front of him, Lasco walked into the end zone nearly untouched.

On the next offensive snap for the Bears, Arizona’s Jourdon Grandon lost track of Bryce Treggs on a deep slant route out of the slot. Treggs, also untouched, flew into the end zone to give the Bears a 14-0 lead.

Quarterback Jared Goff, draped in an all-gold jersey for the first time in the Sonny Dykes era, was brilliant in the first half. Goff repeatedly maneuvered away from Arizona’s pass rush — a product of a 3-3 defense that likes to blitz — to hit receivers down the field. Sometimes it was easy, like on that wide-open slant to Treggs, but other times, Goff looked like the poised and comfortable quarterback coach Sonny Dykes thought he could be when he picked him to be the Bears’ starting signal-caller a year ago.

Soon, the Bears were up 28-6 at halftime.

The Wildcats closed the gap early in the fourth quarter when a Goff pass bounced up off Stephen Anderson’s hands, falling into the arms of Arizona’s Tra’Mayne Bondurant for an interception. With a short field, Solomon hit Austin Hill for a nine-yard touchdown, narrowing the deficit to 31-23.

On an 83-degree night in Tucson, both defenses looked gassed by the fourth quarter. The Bears and Wildcats traded touchdowns as the scoreline ballooned to 45-37. Then, Arizona recovered an onside kick with fewer than four minutes remaining in the game, and the affair, which was mostly one-sided until that point, took a turn.

“We got tired here and there,” said defensive end Brennan Scarlett. “But we just didn’t make the plays whether we were tired or just missed an assignment.”

The Wildcats drove down the field in just five plays, mirroring the speed Cal had played with to begin the game. When Arizona’s Cayleb Jones caught a touchdown pass with 2:44 remaining, all that was left was to try for a two-point conversion and the tie. Jalen Jefferson, Cal’s junior linebacker, tipped the pass to save Cal’s 45-43 lead.

Cal recovered the ensuing onside kick. But with just 57 seconds to go and a 4th-and-7 in front of them, the Bears elected to try a 47-yard field goal. James Langford missed his second kick of the year, wide left.

And then it was just Anu Solomon, Austin Hill and that heave to the back-right corner of the end zone.

“Well you know you have to get over it,” Dykes said. “Get over it and look forward to down the stretch. Football games are 60 minutes for a reason.”

Riley McAtee covers football. Contact him at rmcatee@dailycal.org. Follow him on Twitter @riley_mcatee

Read more here: http://www.dailycal.org/2014/09/20/cal-football-falls-arizona-45-49-wildcats-connect-last-second-hail-mary/
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