The Arizona Wildcats work on a Hail Mary play every Thursday at the end of practice. Well, this past Thursday, they worked on two – and it paid off.
Arizona quarterback Anu Solomon completed a 47-yard pass to Austin Hill as time expired Saturday night to give Arizona (4-0, 1-0) a 49-45 win over the California Golden Bears (2-1, 0-1).
“We do it every Thursday,” Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez said on The MoJo Show, referring to his Hail Mary play. “It’s the last thing we do at our Thursday practice: We work on a Hail Mary play. We actually worked on a little bit extra this time because we put in two Hail Mary’s just in case. And who knows when you’re going to use it? In 20-some years, this is the first time we’ve ever completed it and had (it be) successful.”
Arizona trailed 31-13 through three quarters before erupting for 36 points in the fourth, including 21 in the final three-and-a-half minutes.
“For 59 minutes and 56 seconds, I was miserable because we just weren’t playing well and they were taking it to us,” Rodriguez said. “(They) outplayed us, out-coached us – did everything. But our kids kept hanging in there, and at the end of the game, we needed one play and we made it. So we executed well. I wish we had played better throughout the course of the game, but it was fun to watch our guys just hang in there until the end when everything looked bleak and then pull out the W.”
Solomon, a freshman, finished 47-of-73 for 520 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions. He also carried 16 times for a team-high 46 yards.
“He’s been pretty unflappable,” Rodriguez said. “He kept his poise. For three quarters, he didn’t play well – and we put a lot on our quarterbacks decision making-wise. We know he’s a freshman and he’s going to make mistakes, but for three quarters, he just wasn’t on. He wasn’t on on his throws and stuff like that, but he’s an unflappable guy. In the fourth quarter, he kind of got hot and we made a few plays and he kept battling.
“That’s the thing I’m proud of,” Rodriguez continued. “He never lost his composure. He never went in the tank when things went bad. He just kept competing and kept playing – as did some of the other guys – and he made a nice throw at the end. There’s a lot of nice lessons we can teach from it. He’s a very conscientious guy. I think he’s going to keep getting better.”
Solomon’s top targets against Cal were Hill, who had eight catches for 127 yards and two scores, and Cayleb Jones, who had game-highs in receptions (13), yards (186) and touchdowns (three).
Arizona, which has won its last three games by an average of 4.7 points, is off this weekend but plays No. 2 Oregon (4-0, 1-0) in Eugene on Oct 2. Arizona beat Oregon, 42-16, last November.
“Obviously it starts with their skill level,” Rodriguez said of the Ducks. “They’ve got probably the best player in the country in Marcus Mariota. (I wish he) went pro last year. We’re going to have to play a whole lot better than we have been. But at the same time, it’s another opportunity. Our guys took advantage of the opportunity last year at home and played really well. It was certainly our best game of the year. We’re going to have to do that again.”