The ebb and flow of the game drained dry when Keola Antolin broke the longest play from scrimmage for Arizona in the second quarter during the Wildcats’ 44-14 romp over Washington.
Not only did Antolin twist and sidestep his way past Washington sophomore safety Justin Glenn on the 78-yard touchdown sprint in the second quarter, he effectively ran over the Huskies’ psyche. Only 18 seconds before Antolin’s run, Washington had cut the lead to 17-14 with 7:55 left in the second quarter on a Chris Polk 7-yard touchdown run.
Another Pac-10 classic at Arizona Stadium was in the making. The Huskies drove 55 yards on seven plays and appeared to be ready to match the UA drive-for-drive. That’s when Antolin went into overdrive on the very next offensive play from scrimmage after Polk’s touchdown.
“That was a long run, man,” Antolin said incredulously. “I felt like I ran 300 yards.”
“We challenged the offensive line to be more a physical unit, and to protect the quarterback better,” said UA coach Mike Stoops, whose team had more rushing yards a game (120.7) than only Washington State (80.1) in the Pac-10 entering the game.
“We were hard on those guys this week and they responded in a positive way.”
It helps to be blocking for a quick and physical runner like Antolin, who at 5-foot-8 and 186 pounds is hard to see charging into the line and tough to tackle once a defensive player is able to get a hand on him. Including Saturday night’s performance, in the last three games, Antolin has rushed for 281 yards on 43 carries (6.5 yards per attempt).
When asked if this is the best he’s played in his career, Antolin thought for a second and said, “Yes it is.” He also tried to deflect credit for his long touchdown run, giving props to a clear-out block from Grigsby. But his juke of poor Justin Glenn allowed him to break free and break Washington’s back.
“All week in practice coaches say you have to make a guy miss,” Antolin said. “I made (Glenn) miss and I went all the way.”
Antolin was so winded that he said it took him four minutes to recuperate. He did not lose energy on the sprint, however, while separating himself from Glenn and other Washington defenders.
“There was no way I was going to let anybody catch me,” Antolin said, “or else I know I’d hear about it from the coaches.”
Arizona center Colin Baxter knows all too well what it’s like to hear coaches in practice challenging players, especially this week for the beleaguered offensive line. He acknowledged, “You know, Coach Stoops is an excited guy …”
“We felt like we weren’t playing up to our potential,” Baxter said. “If Matt in there it enables us to do some QB run stuff … so that opened some stuff up.
“We hit on our assignments and our techniques.”
Antolin gets the glory of a 78-yard highlight-reel run. What does the offensive line get after a difficult week in practice and an effective performance Saturday night? A free lunch courtesy of Antolin?
“He should buy us one,” Baxter said with a laugh. “The bottom line is we did what we were supposed to do. I’ll take the win.”