Stanford Cardinal Defeat Arizona Wildcats in Overtime Thriller

Darin PikeContributor IOctober 6, 2012

PALO ALTO, CA - OCTOBER 06: Tight end Levine Toilolo #11 of the Stanford Cardinal (2L) celebrates with quarterback Josh Nunes #6 after scoring a touchdown against the Arizona Wildcats during the second quarter at Stanford Stadium on October 6, 2012 in Palo Alto, California. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
Jason O. Watson/Getty Images

The Stanford Cardinal returned home to attempt to rebound from their 17-13 Pac-12 loss against the Washington Huskies. The Arizona Wildcats had other plans in their third game against an 18th-ranked opponent.

Several head-scratching calls by Rich Rodriguez ultimately decided the game, though, as Stanford (4-1) grabbed a 54-48 win in OT.

The Wildcats (3-3) had an impressive start to the season.

They put a 59-38 thumping of then-No. 18 Oklahoma State and followed up with a 56-0 thrashing of South Carolina State.

After being crushed by Oregon, Arizona dropped two games they should have won. The turning points weren’t the play on the field, though.

The losses happened when Rodriguez took the game out of his players’ hands.

After a quiet first quarter on Saturday, both offenses were almost unstoppable. Arizona scored on five straight drives while Stanford found the end zone on six of their eight final possessions.

There were seven lead changes over 25 minutes of clock time.

Stanford was leading 34-33 heading into the final quarter, but a pair of touchdowns put Arizona back in the lead. 

The Cardinal cut the lead to make it 48-41 with 6:34 left in the game. They forced a three-and-out that surprisingly included two incomplete passes. The play-calling was the first of three critical coaching errors down the stretch for Arizona.

The Cardinal received the ball with six minutes remaining.

Then Josh Nunes went to work. Some fans were calling for a change at the quarterback position but the junior showed why he is the starter. He made several key passes and a critical cutback run to push the ball deep into Arizona territory.

With the ball in the red zone, Arizona forced a 4th-and-8. Nunes showed poise in a quiet pocket and connected with Zach Ertz for the first down. He ran into the end zone on the following play to tie the game at 48.

With 41 seconds and two timeouts remaining, Rich Rodriguez did the unthinkable: He sat on the ball.

His next decision was equally odd, opting to take the ball first in overtime.

On 3rd-and-10, Stanford deflected a Matt Scott pass and Chase Thomas grabbed it near the goal line. They needed just two Stepfan Taylor rushes to finish the game.