Costly Mistakes doom Arizona Football in loss to Mississippi State

Sep 9, 2023; Starkville, Mississippi, USA; Arizona Wildcats tight end Tanner McLachlan (84) is tackled by Mississippi State Bulldogs safety Chris Keys (27) and linebacker Jett Johnson (44) during the second half at Davis Wade Stadium at Scott Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 9, 2023; Starkville, Mississippi, USA; Arizona Wildcats tight end Tanner McLachlan (84) is tackled by Mississippi State Bulldogs safety Chris Keys (27) and linebacker Jett Johnson (44) during the second half at Davis Wade Stadium at Scott Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports /

STARKVILLE, MS – Succumbing to five costly turnovers, Arizona Football (1-0) came up short in trying to knock off Mississippi State (2-0), losing 31-24 in overtime.

Arizona Football entered their matchup against the Mississippi State Bulldogs with hopes of knocking off a talented SEC squad. However, they left the field with a bitter taste of disappointment as they suffered a heartbreaking, 31-24 loss to MSU in overtime.

Despite outgaining Mississippi State 431-307 yards, sloppy play and a whopping five turnovers proved to be the Achilles’ heel for Arizona in this game, leaving fans wondering what could have been.

Sloppy Play at its Worst

From the opening whistle, it was evident that Arizona Football was not in sync. Sloppy play on offense plagued the Wildcats in the first half as Arizona coughed up the ball four times on its first four drives, as it ultimately became their undoing.

Beyond that, penalties, missed assignments, and missed tackles were all too common, providing ample opportunities for Mississippi State to capitalize.

Offensively, the Wildcats struggled to find their rhythm. Quarterback Jayden de Laura had a very inconsistent day, completing just 32 of 46 passes for 342 yards with four interceptions.

His decision-making was questionable, and he often forced throws into tight coverage, leading to turnovers that stalled the offense multiple times.

The Wildcats defense also had a bit of a rough day, failing to secure gap integrity and missing tackles, which led to the Bulldogs gashing Arizona for 145 yards on the ground. Running back Jo’Quavious Marks ran for 123 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries.

Despite their errors, Arizona Football still had a chance to get the unlikely win against Mississippi State on the road.

Trailing 14-0 late in the second quarter, Arizona got the football back with 40 seconds to play in the half.

Needing to show some kind of life, the Wildcats went on a remarkable three-play, 77-yard drive that led to an Arizona touchdown when de Laura snuck the football into the end zone from one yard out.

Trailing just 14-7 at the half, things looked a little bit promising for Arizona all things considered!

Unfortunately, that optimism quickly dissipated in the second half when Arizona went three-and-out quickly, giving the ball right back to Mississippi State.

The Bulldogs would capitalize, driving 30 yards in just four plays that ended in a 15-yard touchdown throw from Will Rogers to Lideatrick Griffin (his second touchdown of the day) to make it 21-7 MSU.

Luckily for us, the Wildcats wouldn’t go quietly in this one. Showing grit, on the ensuing drive, Arizona marched 75 yards on 10 plays that ended in a Jacob Cowing touchdown reception to make it 21-14.

Holding MSU to a three-and-out, Arizona would get the ball back again, this time driving 80 yards on nine plays that ended in an impressive back-of-the-end zone touchdown grab, as Jayden de Laura connected with Tetairoa McMillan to make it 21-21 with 9:14 to play in the fourth.

Unfortunately, Mississippi State would find its rhythm again, marching 57 yards on five plays that ended in a field goal to make it 24-21.

Getting the ball back with 6:47 to play, the Wildcats would have an opportunity to tie it or take the lead, but another bad throw by de Laura was deflected and picked off by Jett Johnson (his second of the day).

Luckily, the defense stood tall, holding MSU to one yard on three plays, as Arizona got the ball back, giving the offense one last opportunity.

With 2:36 to play and the ball at their 24-yard line, Arizona would find its rhythm, getting down to the MSU 17-yard line quickly. However, an ill-timed QB sneak from de Laura would make it fourth down, putting itself in a tough situation.

Fortunately, kicker Tyler Loop was up to the task, bailing out the Wildcats, as he connected from 36 yards out as the ball sailed through the uprights to make it 24-24, sending this one into overtime!

Giving the Bulldogs the ball first in overtime, the Wildcat defense looked sharp at first, but a missed tackle allowed for Jeffery Pittman to spring free, scampering 29 yards into the end zone to make it 31-24, MSU.

Arizona would get its chance, but poor execution doomed the Wildcats, as three broken plays made it 4th down very quickly.

Pressured, de Laura would scramble out of the pocket before racing up the sideline and diving toward the first down marker. First ruled a first down, upon further review, the refs said de Laura was short. Ball game.

Arizona Football’s loss to Mississippi State was a harsh reminder of the consequences of sloppy play and turnovers. Five turnovers are not going to win you very many football games, if any. The Wildcats will need to address their issues with ball security, discipline, and execution moving forward if they hope to turn their season around and compete in a highly competitive Pac-12.

Falling to 1-1 on the year, we will see if the Wildcats can bounce back next week when they return to action against UTEP.

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