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October 10, 2008Every 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.
Quarterback Willie Tuitama had an extremely difficult game up until the last minute when the senior sprung to life and led Arizona from behind to defeat Stanford 31-27 in Palo Alto.
Tuitama's late drive combined with some timely turnovers caused by the UA defense were the deciding factors in the game.
Tuitama completed 16 out of 28 passes for only 102 yards, but threw two touchdowns.
The offense's shortcomings didn't conclude with Tuitama. Sophomore running back Nicolas Grigsby also had a difficult time getting his game going. Grigsby carried the ball 14 times but accumulated a mere 37 yards for the Wildcats.
Freshman Juron Criner led the receivers with four catches for 56 yards and a score but the receivers found it difficult to find holes and space in the Stanford defense.
Stanford quarterback Tavita Pritchard was able to move the ball very well against the Wildcats, but also made several costly mistakes that led to points for Arizona.
Pritchard completed 31 for 38 passes for 324 yards and two touchdowns but threw four interceptions -- two of which were returned for touchdowns -- in the losing effort.
Richard Sherman and Doug Baldwin were Pritchard's favorite targets. UA had difficulty containing the two as Sherman hauled in nine passes for 107 yards and a touchdown, and Baldwin caught eight balls for 73 yards.
However, the Wildcats defense came up with several drive killing interceptions that ultimately cost Stanford the game.
It all started in the second quarter.
With the score knotted at three after a pair of field goals -- one from each team -- Arizona landed the first haymaker.
Senior cornerback Marquis Hundley stayed with Baldwin the whole way on a pass from Pritchard, jumped his route, picked the ball off and returned it 60 yards for the score and to give UA a 10-3 lead.
Stanford would return the favor later in the quarter when it forced Grigsby to fumble at mid-field. Pritchard proceeded to take the Cardinal on a 48-yard drive that was capped off by a seven-yard touchdown pass to Sherman to tie the game at 10.
Arizona would stall on the next drive and Stanford got the ball back with good field position, but before Stanford was able to move the ball much, it gave the ball right back as cornerback Devin Ross picked off Pritchard at the Arizona 35-yard line.
On the ensuing drive, a 15-yard facemask penalty and a couple of short plays were able to set the table for a Tuitama four-yard touchdown pass to tight end Rob Gronkowski to give UA a 17-10 lead going into the half.
On Stanford's first possession of the half, things appeared to start getting out of hand. Safety Nate Ness stepped in front of Pritchard's off-balance pass down-field for the interception. Ness took the ball back 77 yards for the score and the lead was 24-10 in favor of the Wildcats.
Less than a minute later, Stanford would strike back.
Pritchard hit running back Anthony Kimble in the flats and Kimble took it 68 yards for the touchdown. UA had a coverage breakdown on the play and the entire left side of the field was wide-open for Kimble as he brought the Cardinal within seven.
After Arizona was forced to punt on the ensuing drive, Stanford received good field position but did little with it. After a short lived drive, Zagora drilled a 45-yard field goal to cut the Arizona lead to 24-20.
Stanford would get a chance to take the lead after Arizona stalled on offense.
Pritchard led a long drive and spread the ball around to five different receivers and it appeared that Stanford was primed to take the lead. However, Pritchard attempted to find Baldwin in the end zone but instead found Ross, who picked the ball off and Arizona would get the ball at its own 20.
Fortunately for Stanford, Arizona's offense still couldn't move the ball on the following drive, settling for its third straight three-and-out and Stanford would take advantage of the opportunity.
Pritchard led a balanced offensive attack and with the assistance of Toby Gerhart, Stanford was threatening Arizona's lead.
Gerhart would get the call twice inside the red zone -- taking the ball for carries of nine and five yards. The five-yard run was a blast up the middle that resulted in a touchdown and a 27-24 Stanford lead with a little more than a minute to play.
Arizona had one last chance and its offense finally appeared to wake up in the final drive.
Kick-returner Keola Antolin set up the offense nicely with a return to the Arizona 39-yard line. With a minute left Tuitama found Criner for a huge 29-yard gain to give Arizona a first down.
Stanford would step up its defense briefly, forcing the Wildcats into a fourth-and-two situation. However, Tuitama's hard-count fooled several Stanford defensive linemen as they jumped the line and were called for encroachment to give UA a fresh set of downs.
After hitting Mike Thomas for a 10-yard gain, the Wildcats found themselves in the red zone with only 16 seconds left.
Tuitama had one last chance and was able to redeem himself with the opportunity.
With the clock ticking away, Criner was able to find a seam in the secondary and Tuitama placed it perfectly for a 19-yard touchdown to help put Arizona back ahead 31-27 and that's how the game would end.
Tuitama made up for a shaky game where the Stanford defense was dropping an extra guy into coverage and eliminating the deep ball. Tuitama had only 44 yards passing for the game going into the final drive.
In that drive, Tuitama completed three passes for 58 yards, more than doubling his total for the game in the final minute of play.
Arizona will return home to Tucson to face the California Golden Bears on Oct. 18.
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