WILDCATS DROPPED BY UTES IN KEY PAC BATTLE
#12 Utah 53
#14 Arizona 3
Matt Rogers and the Wildcats now await the decision of the selection committee as to whether they qualify for this year's playoffs.
Mar 30- Arizona traveled to Salt Lake City this past weekend for a key contest, taking on #12 Utah in a pivotal PAC Conference match. The outcome would have distinct playoff implications for both teams, with the winner securing the conference's automatic berth to the D1A playoffs.
The conditions were not ideal for either team, with the home side taking advantage of the rain to pressure the Wildcats early and turn them over, scoring a quick try off of a handling error to make it 7-0 in the first few minutes. The Wildcats responded quickly, however, stealing the subsequent restart and taking advantage of a Utah penalty, with Luke Thayer getting the visitors on the board. Unfortunately this momentum was short lived for the Wildcats, as the Utah pressure and weather made it difficult for them to get in to a groove. A trio of quick tries by the Utes were a result of penalties by the Wildcats, putting the team in a 24-3 hole in the 18th minute. Arizona finally started to settle down, stringing together possessions to get in to Utah territory but each time was turned away, either by stout defense or penalty infringements which proved costly. A final try before halftime made it 29-3 going in to the break, a hole that would prove difficult to dig out of. "We were figuratively punched in the mouth in the first 15 minutes, full credit to Utah for taking advantage of our mistakes and putting together good Rugby of their own" said Head Coach Sean Duffy "we spoke all week about finishing, playing a full 80 and while sometimes for us that's been on the back end, this time was obviously on the front end, as Utah got out to a great start and forced us out of our gameplan early."
The second half saw adjustments by the Wildcats, but with the team on the wrong side of the penalty count and the handling error count, the resulting scoreline handed Arizona a tough loss as the team seeks to return to this year's D1A playoffs. Utah's win punches the ticket for the home side, securing the automatic bid that comes with being the highest non-varsity cup team in the conference. PAC Champions Cal do not participate in national championship playoffs.
The Wildcats end the year 3rd in the conference, their best finish in the conference in the past four seasons. Having concluded their regular season, the Wildcats now await the decision of the selection committee, with a strong resume given the year's results but many contenders for those 12 spots across the country. Last season, the Wildcats entered the playoffs as a #12 seed, defeating #5 LSU in Baton Rouge before falling to #4 Utah in the National Quarterfinal. Arizona currently sits at #14 in the national rankings, making them the 11th ranked non-varsity cup team in the poll.
The Wildcats close out the regular season for their Junior Varsity and Developmental sides the next two weeks, welcoming New Mexico Tech this weekend before taking on Northern Arizona University next Saturday.
Penalties: Thayer- 1/2