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Effecient final drive ices games for Matadors
Usually a game-changing drive involves a spectacular 45-yard play, a leaping touchdown catch or some other unbelievable moment.
Arizona Western's key drive Saturday didn't have any of that. All it did was win the game for the Matadors.
AWC took over with 6:54 left and three false starts backed them up to the 1-yard line. Twelve plays later, the Matadors had clinched a 42-37 win over Nassau in the El Toro Bowl at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
“Our goal was to keep moving the ball, even with the mistakes,” guard Dionte Savage said. “We just had to go to the next play and execute, even with those mistakes.“
AWC had a 42-24 lead early in the fourth, but that was cut to five after Tanner McEvoy's second interception set up a Nassau touchdown. Andre O'Neil returned the kick to the Lions' 30, but a block in the back early in the return put the Matadors on their own 5.
Then came three straight false starts and the ball was at the 1.
“That drive kind of reflects how our season went,” said running back J.C. Baker, who had three carries for 10 yards on the drive, including the last run of the game. “We do great things and we look back and there's a penalty and negates everything that we did. It shows how much character this team has to overcome that and still pull out this win.”
No play was longer than 12 yards, but a pair of Nassau personal fouls helped things along.
And the drive wasn't without controversy. With less than a minute left, Demont Buice fumbled and it seemingly was recovered by Nassau, but Buice was ruled down before the fumble.
“It definitely, I thought, was a fumble. But what are you going to do?” Nassau coach Curtis Guilliam said. “I can't call the game and give the flags. Obviously the guy was still standing up. The progress was still going forward the ball got ripped out and he was still standing up. We didn't get the call.”
Minnick said he thought — and hoped — the referees made the right call.
“There at the end, it was a close call,” Minnick said. “I don't know if they could have come down and scored, but it was close. I think his knee was down. I never want to win that way, so hopefully he was down. But still, they had to come and drive the length of the field to score if that was it.”
McEvoy started the drive with a pair of sneaks, setting up third-and-10 on the 5. His pass to Markeith Ambles was low, but the freshman receiver slid for the ball and came up with it for a 12-yard gain.
“We knew we had to get the first down out of our end zone,” McEvoy said. “Luckily Markeith Ambles made a nice catch on a slant and we got out of it. We started going down field, offensive line did a great job, and that's all we needed to do.”
That was the last time the Matadors had to throw, something that Minnick said made him happy.
“We just had to get the ball out of our end zone,” Minnick said. “I was mad, and we weren't throwing the ball any more. You have to throw it on third and Markeith came up with a big catch there, but once we got away from (the end zone) it was fine. We just got into grind-it mode with the kids and we did all right.”
They faced only one other third down, a third-and-1 with just more than a minute left. McEvoy faked the fly sweep to Tremaine McCullough and took off for 10 yards. A personal foul moved the ball to the 14, then Buice had his controversial run.
“We were running the ball well against them, had a ton of yards rushing against them,” Minnick said. “It actually worked out well for us.”