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A Territorial Cup and No Bowling - Arizona Football Final Third Recap

As of Friday, the 25th of November, the football season for the University of Arizona Wildcats is over. The final third of the season proved to be the challenge many expected, with the Wildcats ending their year having played one of the toughest schedules in the FBS based on opposition win-loss records. In this piece, I will briefly recap the final four games of the Wildcats’ schedule. Without further ado, let’s begin.

 

On the 5th of November, the Wildcats began their final road trip of the season, a two-game set of matches against Top 25 Pac-12 foes Utah and UCLA. Entering the game against Utah, who was #12 in the nation at the time, the Wildcats found themselves on a brutal three-game losing streak, their most recent loss against #10 USC at home on homecoming weekend. The Utes were on a two-game winning streak, on the other hand, just having taken down Washington State on the road. With 51,919 in attendance on a cold, rainy day at Rice-Eccles Stadium, an ugly match went underway. Wildcat QB Jayden de Laura only completed 10 passes in the game for 159 yards with his backup Noah Fifita coming in to complete five passes for 72 yards and a TD. Utah QB Cameron Rising had a similarly awful game, passing for 151 yards and a TD on 13 completions. The difference proved to be the run game, as it often does in rainy games, with Utah out-running Arizona 306 to 156 in yards and 5 to 1 in ground TDs. Ultimately, the match was Arizona’s fourth straight loss, the final score a brutal 45-20.

 

The next week hopes were not high for Wildcat fans as Arizona went to the Rose Bowl to take on #9 UCLA. The Bruins found themselves on a two-gaming winning streak, having blown out Arizona State on the road the week before. Despite the expectation on paper being a blowout, the Wildcats instead came out fighting, with Jayden de Laura going 22/28, for 315 yards and two TDs in the air. UCLA’s Dorian Thompson-Robinson was also efficient, completing 26 passes on 39 attempts for 245 yards and a TD in the air. Zach Charbonnet proved to be tough to contain as he ran for 181 yards and three TDs in the game, but this alone was not enough to stop the Wildcats as Tyler Loop had two crucial field goals in the 4th to split the score and the Wildcats succeeded in blocking a Nicholas Barr-Mira attempt in the 3rd to aid in causing the massive 34-28 upset that helped end the Wildcats’ losing skid and keep their potential bowl hopes alive.

 

Following their upset against UCLA, the Wildcats returned home to Arizona Stadium to end their season with a two-game homestand. Their first foe was Washington State, who entered the game on a two-game winning streak, beating Arizona State at home the week prior. In his first match against his former team, Jayden de Laura seemingly pressed (despite Coach Fisch’s statements declaring otherwise), the entire offense seeming off rhythm the entire game while the defense tried their hardest to contain the Cougars. de Laura, despite passing for 357 yards, was incredibly inefficient as he threw for a single TD and four brutal interceptions, one being returned for six. Cougars QB Cameron Ward played a safe game, going 25/36 for 193 yards and a TD. Washington State ran for nearly double Arizona’s yardage, rushing for 161 yards and two TDs while the Wildcats barely mustered 84 yards and a single ground TD. In the end, the Cougars made the least mistakes and rode out of Arizona Stadium with a 31-20 victory, ending Arizona’s hopes to go bowling.

 

On Friday the 25th, it was Senior Day for the Wildcats and time for the duel for the Territorial Cup once again. The Sun Devils came in having won the last five Territorial Cup matches, but they entered on a three-game losing skid that included being blown out at home by Oregon State. For both teams, with bowl game eligibility gone, this was their bowl game. In what proved to be a rollercoaster of a game with all the expected tension and fighting (including Wilbur v. Sparky on the sidelines), Jayden de Laura went 12/23 for 200 yards and an interception. ASU QB Trenton Bourguet went 37/49 for 376 yards, three TDs, and two picks, the last being the one that iced the game as Wildcat linebacker Jacob Manu forced a lame-duck pass that was easily picked by Isaiah Taylor. The ultimate difference maker in the match was Wildcat RB Michael Wiley, who ran for 218 yards and three TDs to help propel the Wildcats to a nail-biting 38-35 finish against the Sun Devils to win the Territorial Cup.


Video: Arizona fans rush the field following the Territorial Cup victory over ASU from the broadcast booths. Daniel Cervantes, KAMP Student Radio

 

With all 12 games in the books, the Wildcats finished their year with a solid 5-7 record, 3-6 in Pac-12 matchups, a respectable record especially considering the prior two seasons. The team frankly exceeded my expectations and likely that of many others, falling just one game short of a potential bowl game despite playing a brutal schedule. The team has much potential going forward and with good recruiting, the team could see itself in bowl contention next year. Either way, that is a good time away and for now, we can bask in having the Territorial Cup and the salt of ASU fans and students.

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