Arizona Football

Among Hail Mary facts, Arizona Wildcats QB Solomon first freshman to do so in modern era



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“Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee …”

A prayer was answered on the last play of the game at the highest level of college football 15 times since 1980, starting when Jim McMahon of Brigham Young stunned Southern Methodist in the Holiday Bowl with a 41-yard pass.

With two religious institutions involved — BYU and SMU — it goes to show a prayer answered is another’s lament.

This is the 30th anniversary of Doug Flutie’s famous Hail Mary, a 48-yard prayer to Gerard Phelan in the heavy night air of Miami that propelled Flutie to a Heisman Trophy.

“That play has lived with me almost every day since it happened,” Phelan told the Boston College Chronicle 10 years ago on the 20th anniversary of the “Hail Flutie” pass. “It’s remarkable. Rarely a day goes by when someone does not bring it up. It’s a great thing to be associated with because whenever anybody talks about it they are always smiling. I’m lucky to be a part of it.”

“As far as being overcome with emotion, I don’t know what else’d come close,” Iowa receiver Warren Holloway said of his 56-yard Hail Mary pass reception that beat LSU in the 2005 Capital One Bowl. “Maybe having a kid.”

Anu Solomon and Austin Hill will bask in that experience for the rest of their lives.

“It was an awesome feeling having the whole team jump on top of me, and at the same time, (I was) scared,” said a smiling Hill, who did not let go of the ball until well after the game in the locker room. “I don’t think there is anything like a Hail Mary last play especially since you’ve got the defense giving it 110 percent knowing it’s the final play and the offense giving 110 percent knowing it’s the final play.

“Just that, everyone going out there trying their best to make the stop or make the play, it’s just an awesome feeling to catch a Hail Mary.”

Solomon’s 47-yard completion to Hill among at least three Cal defenders in Arizona’s 49-45 win Saturday undoubtedly made McMahon, Flutie, Brett Favre, Kordell Stewart, Ben Roethlisberger and Kirk Cousins and others remember their Hail Mary heaves in college that won the game on the last play of the game since 1980.

Arizona’s Keith Smith also completed a 42-yard Hail Mary pass to Bobby Wade in his senior season of 1999 to give the Wildcats a 30-24 victory over Washington State in Pullman, Wash. Wade, falling down in the end zone amid five players, grabbed the ball after it appeared to briefly hit the turf. The use of instant replay to help officials was not in use yet in college football.

Solomon joins that fraternity of 16 quarterbacks as the only freshman.

“I’m sure he was down a little bit (after two first-half interceptions against Cal), because you lose your confidence when your throws are off or your decisions are off a little bit,” Rodriguez said of Solomon. “But he made some really good plays too, in particular of the fourth quarter.

“I’m proud of how he hung in there.”

Hail Mary plays that ended the first half were not factored into the data researched for this article.


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The following Hail Mary plays includes former Arizona receiver Mike Thomas catching one for the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2010.

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Arizona was victimized by such a play in 2005 by Washington quarterback Isaiah Stanback on a 69-yard connection that tied the game at 14 at Arizona Stadium. Washington won 38-14.

In addition to the Smith-to-Wade connection, Arizona’s most significant Hail Mary before Saturday’s game was Ronald Veal’s pass that was grabbed by Derek Hill on the last play of the first half against ASU in 1988. The Wildcats eventually won 28-18 in Tucson, prolonging “The Streak” of unbeaten games against the Sun Devils to seven games.

How the Hail Mary last Saturday will impact Arizona’s season is anybody’s guess.

The Hail Mary does not have much of a shelf life. In the 13 regular-season games after a Hail Mary decided the outcome starting with Flutie’s pass, the record of the winning team in the next game is 7-6. Arizona travels to No. 2 Oregon next Thursday. Cal could suffer from a hangover against visiting Colorado on Saturday. The teams on the opposite end of a Hail Mary are 5-8 the following week.

The Golden Bears can be assured that their season is not over. In fact, the losing team of a Hail Mary game since 1984 incredibly has a better winning percentage in the remaining games of that season than the winner. The winners are a combined 46-41 (52.9 percent) afterward, which is less of a winning percentage than the 13 losers (49-34, 59 percent).

Five of the losers finished equal to or better to the winners in terms of overall record. Tulsa went 10-2 after losing the season-opener to East Carolina on a Hail Mary play in 2010, while the Pirates went 5-7. The 2011 Wisconsin team that lost on a Hail Mary pass to Michigan State went on to win the Big Ten and played in the Rose Bowl.

Arizona (4-0) is hoping for a dream season like Colorado had in 1994. The Buffaloes (11-1 that year) finished the season winning eight of their last nine games after the Kordell Stewart-to-Michael Westbrook Hail Mary at Michigan.

Solomon won’t be mentioned in the same breath as Flutie as a Heisman hopeful after his Hail Mary heave. That’s because Solomon is only four games into his career and the season is only one-third of the way completed. Flutie’s play came with only three games left in his career for a 10-2 Boston College team.

Just like how the Hail Mary play develops, it’s all about timing and how everything falls into place. And, of course, if a prayer is answered.


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This video will have to be updated. publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He also writes articles for Bleacher Report and Lindy’s College Sports.


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