TUCSON, Ariz. — Many of them didn’t even wait for the official signal. Most of the Huskies watched helplessly from the sideline as Arizona kicked the winning field goal. Then they turned left and made an immediate exit toward the Washington locker room.
Some ran. Some lingered.
Moments after the Huskies’ stunning 27-26 defeat against No. 17 Arizona, coach Chris Petersen walked briskly off the field at Arizona Stadium, staring down, flanked by two police officers.
Shaq Thompson threw his helmet. He cursed. Andrew Hudson walked alone, slowly, shaking his head. “Confused,” he said a few minutes later.
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Danny Shelton and Jaydon Mickens were two of the last Huskies off the field. Mickens still was wearing his shiny gold helmet, head down, when Shelton approached him. UW’s 340-pound nose tackle put his right arm around the 174-pound receiver and pulled him close. “I’m all right,” Mickens told him.
In a season in which the Huskies (6-5, 2-5 Pac-12) have never quite put everything together, they finally pulled closed Saturday afternoon, finally looked like they would close out a tight game against a quality opponent.
Then they lost it.
As the Huskies were trying to run out the clock, clinging to a 26-24 lead, Deontae Cooper, UW’s fifth-year senior running back, lost a fumble with 1:23 left. It was one of six fumbles for the Huskies, three of which were recovered by Arizona.
The last one hurt the most. Arizona recovered Cooper’s fumble at the UW 45-yard line and won it seven plays later on Casey Skowron’s 47-yard field goal as time expired.
“Kind of unbelievable,” said Hudson, UW’s senior defensive end. “I feel like this was the best we’ve played as a team. Everyone was in it, encouraging one another. … To end it with that, it just sucks. It stings a little bit. Actually, a lot.”
Before the final field goal, Petersen tried to ice Skowron by calling a timeout. Skowron got off a first attempt, which sailed wide right. But Petersen was granted the timeout, giving Skowron another crack, which he converted down the middle, sending the red-clad crowd of 47,757 into celebration.
Petersen was a bit animated when asked later about calling the timeout.
“I will say this: I don’t want to call time out and let him kick it (the first time), and I told the (officials) that I was going to call time out,” he said. “And I called it twice before they (actually) called it.”
Petersen was questioned after the game about his clock-management decisions just before Cooper’s fumble. Arizona had only one timeout remaining, with 1:33 to go, and UW had a first down at its own 44-yard line. In theory, the Huskies could have taken a knee three times and run the clock down to little or no time.
“With our chart we felt like we had to run the ball again and get a first down,” Petersen said. “They had one timeout left and that’s the information we got.”
Petersen was more frustrated that UW missed numerous opportunities. The Huskies, who got a spark from sophomore running back Dwayne Washington’s career day of 148 rushing yards, couldn’t finish off quality drives in the red zone, settling three times for field-goal attempts. Cameron Van Winkle’s first field-goal try hit off the right upright. No good.
And even when things were good for Washington, they ended badly. Dwayne Washington’s 1-yard touchdown run gave UW a 26-21 lead late in the third quarter, but the Huskies botched the extra-point try. It was a point the Huskies would end up needing. Badly.
The Huskies were called for a season-high 13 penalties for 111 yards. (Arizona was flagged twice.) They allowed Skowron, Arizona’s kicker, to score on an 18-yard run on a fake field goal with 1:39 left in the first half. Four plays later, UW quarterback Cyler Miles lost his second fumble of the game, setting up Arizona to score another touchdown with eight seconds left, giving the Wildcats (8-2, 5-2) a 21-17 lead after a first half in which the Huskies dominated.
“You make too many errors, too many turnovers, too many penalties — that catches up with you. And eventually, it’s going to slip away,” Petersen said.
The Huskies couldn’t finish off key drives, they couldn’t finish the first half, they couldn’t finish with a lead and the ball late in the game. With two games left in the regular season — at home against Oregon State this week, and at Washington State — they still need one more victory to guarantee themselves a berth to a bowl game. They’re running out of chances to prove they can finish there, or anywhere.
|The Huskies had six fumbles Saturday, three of which were lost. The lost fumbles led to 10 points for Arizona, and one of the fumbles Washington recovered was on an extra point.|
|Cyler Miles fumbles at Arizona 18||14:00 left in second quarter||Arizona went three-and-out|
|Miles fumbles at Arizona 19||0:33 left in second quarter||Arizona scores TD|
|Bad snap, holder Jeff Lindquist falls on it||2:45 left in third quarter||No PAT by Huskies after TD|
|Deontae Cooper fumbles at UW 45||1:23 left in fourth quarter||Arizona hits 47-yard FG to win it|