An inch or two, maybe a smidge more might as well have been a few miles. What’s the difference right, if you are the University of Arizona?
Now, they must travel 1,500 miles back and likely go through every play – probably more bad plays than good ones – as they try to forget what could have been in Starkville, Mississippi.
After all, 2-0 looks better than 1-1 overall. Chances like these don’t come too often.
“This one hurts,” UA coach Jedd Fisch said, as he lamented on his postgame radio show.
Arizona M-I-S-S ed its chance after falling 31-24 in overtime.
Soooo close. Admirable in its comeback effort after falling behind 14-0 early, although Mississippi should have been up more than 21 in the first half. .
Even Mississippi State coach Zach Arnett had to give kudos to Arizona for hanging in there after four Jayden de Laura interceptions and making it close.
“You can’t turn it over as much as we turned it over and walk away with a win, usually,” Arizona coach Jedd Fisch said on his postgame radio show on KCUB 1290. “And yet we were in a position to do it.
“It was disappointing to say the least that we ended the game an inch short.”
It came on a great, athletic effort from de Laura, who looked awful in the first half but played spectacularly in the second half to make a great game of it.
He scrambled and scrambled only to find no one available on a fourth and 10 play. He got through defenders, eventually getting hit just shy of the yard maker for a first down. After a few minutes of reviewing the play, officials announced he had come up short, after first giving him the first down.
In the end, officials said de Laura’s elbow had touched the ground before he had crossed the first-down marker. Arizona’s quarterback went 32 for 46 for 342 yards and two touch downs. But it was that final interception that proved to be crucial. With Arizona driving late in the game with a chance to take the lead, he threw an interception with just more than four minutes left.
Fisch said it wasn’t all on de Laura on his interceptions. He called the first one “a mental mistake” with someone failing to go into motion, second one was a “great play by the defender” and the third one was an “either or ball.”
Eventually, Arizona was able to tie the score at the end of regulation on a Loop field goal.
Arizona almost didn’t have that chance, given the five turnovers overall.
But it fought back with big plays, featuring de Laura’s big arm and legs. He helped Arizona get close at the end of the first half with a 55-yard pass to Tetairoa McMillan’s, which eventually set up what seemed like an impromptu quarterback sneak with just four seconds left in the half.
“We had the ball coming out at the half, so we had no concern,” Fisch said about going in at halftime down 14-7. “We were excited, and our guys were fired up to go. It was big time ball. It put us in a situation where we were going to win this game. And, we let it get away.”
The loss overshadowed a very good effort by the Wildcats’ defense given the circumstances of playing under tough field conditions with so many turnovers. But Arizona held tough, limiting MSU to just 24 regulation points.
Fisch said his defense played “their tall off and they defended every blade of grass.”