10:30 PM ET, September 18, 2010
Arizona Stadium, Tucson, AZ
TUCSON, Ariz. -- One big first-half play after another, Arizona seemed well on its way to a rout. One stumble after the next in the second, a debilitating letdown was on the way.
One final gut-checking drive and the Wildcats have what they hope is a program-defining win.
More from ESPN.com
In 2009, Ricky Stanzi and Iowa were the comeback kids. But Arizona sacked the Hawkeyes' national title dreams Saturday with a statement win, writes ESPN.com's Pat Forde. Story
It was QB Nick Foles' cool when everything seemed to be crumbling around him that was most remarkable about Arizona's win, writes ESPN.com's Ted Miller. Blog
"I'm speechless right now trying to figure out what just happened out there," Arizona coach Mike Stoops said. "When they were challenged, they challenged them right back."
Looking for a big-ticket win to solidify its rise to prominence, Arizona (3-0) stomped on Iowa early behind a slew of big plays that had old Arizona Stadium shaking. The Wildcats blocked a punt to set up their first score, Travis Cobb returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown and Trevin Wade ran an interception back 85 yards for another score.
Up 20 points at the half, Arizona was well on its way to the measuring-stick win it needed after two lopsided Ws over pushovers.
Iowa (2-1) is no easy mark, though, and tightened its defense in the second half, grinding Arizona's high-scoring offense to a halt. Ricky Stanzi hit two of his three touchdown passes in the third quarter and the Hawkeyes tied it in the fourth, when defensive end Broderick Binns stuck his hands up and the ball stuck, leading to a 20-yard interception return.
Then, momentum shot right back to Arizona.
With Binns trying to catch his breath and his teammates still celebrating, the Wildcats partially blocked Trent Mossbrucker's extra point, leaving the score at 27-all. Arizona shook out of its second-half funk on the next drive, moving 72 yards in nine plays for the Foles-to-Wright score, and sealed the first-big-test win with three sacks of Stanzi.
"Obviously, we're disappointed to not come out with a win," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. "Our sloppy play in that first half made it difficult."
Iowa rolled over its first two not-so-challenging opponents by a combined score of 72-14. The road trip to the desert represented a little tougher challenge: a long-distance road game (over 1,500 miles) with a late start (9:30 p.m. Iowa City time) in hot-air-dryer heat (close to 100 at kickoff).
On top of that, the Hawkeyes were facing a talented Arizona team looking to prove itself against a big-school program in one of the most-anticipated nonconference games in the 81-year history of Arizona Stadium.
The Wildcats were certainly up for it, producing one big play after another in a stadium-rocking first half.
• Arizona beat a nonconference opponent ranked in the top 10 at home for the first time since 1989.
• Since 1990, ranked Pac-10 teams have beaten ranked Big Ten teams in all eight meetings.
• Iowa allowed at least 30 points for the first time since 2007 vs. Purdue, a span of 33 games.
• Iowa has lost six straight games when playing a regular season game west of the central time zone. The last win came in 1987.
• Arizona sacked Ricky Stanzi six times, including three straight times on Iowa's final drive.
-- ESPN Stats & Information
Arizona held Iowa to a quick three-and-out on its first drive, then David Roberts broke through to block Ryan Donahue's punt, which Marquis Flowers recovered at the Hawkeyes 8. Three plays later, Foles hit David Douglas on a 5-yard slant for a touchdown that had the rowdies in red jumping and pumping their white pompoms.
Iowa was marching on its second drive, but receiver Marvin McNutt Jr. had the ball slip through his hands and it fell right to Wade, who had a clear shot to the end zone for an 85-yard score.
Barely five minutes into the game, Iowa was in a 14-0 hole.
The Hawkeyes kept plugging away on offense, though, moving 93 yards for a 4-yard touchdown pass from Stanzi to Jewel Hampton, the first touchdown against Arizona this season.
Then Cobb burst through a seam like one of the pregame fireworks on the ensuing kickoff and was gone, 100 yards for a touchdown that put Arizona up 21-7.
"That was tough to watch from the sidelines," Binns said. "Iowa is not normally known for having a lot of problems on special teams."
Tacking on two field goals by Alex Zendejas, including a career-long-matching 47-yarder, Arizona had a seemingly comfortable 27-7 halftime lead.
Turning up the defensive pressure, Iowa stymied Arizona's offense in the third quarter -- 58 total yards -- and pulled within 13 points on a 37-yard touchdown pass from Stanzi to Derrell Johnson-Koulianos.
Iowa came up with a big play of its own on special teams, recovering a muffed punt by Bug Wright at the Wildcats 18. Stanzi hit McNutt on a backpedaling touchdown pass at the edge of the end zone on the next play, making it 27-21.
Binns followed with his at-the-line grab and return for a score, only to watch in amazement from the sideline as the PAT wobbled away from the uprights.
Then it was Foles' turn.
Getting the ball out quickly to avoid Iowa's strengthening rush, the junior completed 4 of 5 passes on the final drive, hitting Wright for the decisive score with 3:57 left. Foles finished with 303 yards and two touchdowns on 28-of-39 passing, solidifying his -- and his team's -- place among the country's best up-and-comers.
"That was a big win for our program," said Tim Kish, Arizona's co-defensive coordinator.
One to remember.
Top 25 Overview
It was over when... Arizona's defense sacked Iowa QB Ricky Stanzi four times on the Hawkeyes' final drive.
Gameball goes to... Nick Foles, who completed 72 percent of his passes for 303 yards and two TDs.
Stat of the game... 82. The two teams combined to finish with just 82 rushing yards on 56 attempts.
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||4-13||5-13|
|4th Down Conversions||0-1||0-1|
|TD||12:45||David Douglas 5 Yd Pass From Nick Foles (Alex Zendejas Kick)||0||7|
|TD||10:10||Trevin Wade 85 Yd Interception Return (Alex Zendejas Kick)||0||14|
|TD||14:50||Jewel Hampton 4 Yd Pass From Ricky Stanzi (Trent Mossbrucker Kick)||7||14|
|TD||14:36||Travis Cobb 100 Yd Kickoff Return (Alex Zendejas Kick)||7||21|
|FG||05:42||Alex Zendejas 22 Yd||7||24|
|FG||00:16||Alex Zendejas 47 Yd||7||27|
|TD||07:15||Derrell Johnson-Koulianos 37 Yd Pass From Ricky Stanzi (Trent Mossbrucker Kick)||14||27|
|TD||08:59||Marvin McNutt 18 Yd Pass From Ricky Stanzi (Trent Mossbrucker Kick)||21||27|
|TD||08:12||Broderick Binns 20 Yd Interception Return (Pat Blocked)||27||27|
|TD||03:57||William Wright 4 Yd Pass From Nick Foles (Alex Zendejas Kick)||27||34|