Arizona vs. Nevada recap: An all-time comeback, by the numbers

USA TODAY Sports

The numbers that mattered in Arizona's crazy New Mexico Bowl comeback win.

367. Combined yardage for Arizona running back Ka'Deem Carey and Nevada running back Stefphon Jefferson. They were the stars of the show heading into the game, and they lived up to their billings. Jefferson carried 34 times for 180 yards and two touchdowns, while Carey carried 28 times for 172 yards and three scores and caught three of four passes for 15 yards. The game was eventually decided by Arizona's passing and an onside kick, but for more than three quarters, Carey and Jefferson dominated.

70. Total first downs. The yardage totals (659 for Nevada, 578 for Arizona, 1,237 total) were gaudy enough, but the first down total (39 for Nevada, 31 for Arizona) is an incredible reminder of how efficient both of these offenses were. Of the 22 combined possessions that did not result in turnovers, 15 resulted in points and 14 resulted in touchdowns. Nevada lost, in part, because the Wolf Pack had to settle for field goals twice.


Arizona fans react to the New Mexico comeback

63. Nevada's fourth-quarter yards. Nevada also lost, of course, because its efficiency dried up after 45 minutes. Through three quarters, the Wolf Pack had gained 596 yards (7.0 per play) and scored 45 points. In four drives in the second and third quarters, they gained 336 yards in 53 plays (average drive: 13 plays, 84 yards), scored 24 points, and turned a 21-21 game into a 45-28 lead. In the fourth quarter, however, these long drives dried up. They ran 20 plays for 63 yards, scored just once (on a 10-play, 40-yard drive -- they had eight drives of at least eight plays for the day), and stalled just enough to give Arizona a shot at a comeback.

11.0. Average yards per pass for Arizona quarterback Matt Scott over his final seven passes. Heading into the final two drives of his career, Scott had completed 21 of 39 passes for 294 yards, a touchdown and two rough interceptions. He had carved out some tough rushing yards in the first half, and he had averaged a reasonable 7.5 yards per pass attempt, but he had made too many mistakes, and Nevada's offense had made almost none. But in his final two drives, two touchdown drives sandwiching an onside kick recovery, he completed seven of eight passes for 88 yards and two scores. He was both brilliant and diverse at the finish, finding Austin Hill twice for 23 yards and a score, Garic Wharton twice for 42 big yards, and Tyler Slavin three times for 23 yards and a score.

2. Bowl wins for Nevada coach Chris Ault. As has been written many times, Ault is Nevada football. He took over in Reno in 1976, he brought the Wolf Pack to the FCS semifinals six times before their move to FBS in 1992, he won the Big West in Nevada's first FBS season, he served as Nevada's athletic director for nearly 20 years, he hired himself in 2004 (after nearly a decade away from coaching) following a string of poor seasons, he has won 233 games in 28 seasons, and he invented the Pistol formation, which seemingly half of the country now uses. His list of accomplishments is incredible. But he is just 2-8 in bowl games, and that has to stick in his craw a bit. As I mentioned in the game preview, Nevada hadn't actually played well in a bowl since about 2005. Saturday's loss certainly wasn't a result of an overall poor performance, but it was a loss nonetheless.

Rich Rodriguez, meanwhile, has now won three of his last four bowls. Granted, the one loss -- Mississippi State 52, Michigan 14 in the 2011 Gator Bowl -- basically ended his career at Michigan, but his career now resumes the path it had taken at West Virginia. Good things await in Tucson, at least as long as that defense improves a bit. The Wildcats fought each other a little better than they fought Stefphon Jefferson and the Nevada offense. But defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel has a lovely track record, and for now, a win is a win. And that was a fantastic way to start the bowl season.

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