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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Arizona football keeps historic season going by earning Pac-12 South title after defeating ASU

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Tyler Baker/ The Daily Wildcat

For a team that wasn’t supposed to be in this position in the first place, the results could not have been sweeter. In one swift stroke, with some help from Stanford, the Arizona football team defeated its archrival and claimed the Pac-12 Conference South division title. Stanford defeated No.8/9 UCLA 31-10 shortly before the UA/ASU game ended, meaning the winner of the game would represent the South division in the Pac-12 Championship Game.

In Rich Rodriguez’s third year at the helm, the Wildcats have won 10 games for the first time since 1998 and find themselves in position to move up the college football landscape. After the game, Rodriguez said he didn’t find out about the South division title until his family told him, and he couldn’t be happier for his team.

“We talk about [the Pac-12 Championship Game] very briefly at the beginning of camp,” Rodriguez said. “Our goal every year is to win the Pac-12 South and then win the Pac-12, and then we don’t talk about it after that because you lose your focus. Ask our kids; they think it’s silly, but I say, ‘How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.’ So, that’s what we’re doing: We’re eating this elephant one bite at a time. We took a couple chunks out of it today, though.”

The crowd was energetic and ready to go for the 1:30 p.m. kickoff at Arizona Stadium. By the time the Wildcats kneeled the ball and secured the 42-35 victory over ASU, that same crowd erupted in excitement, rushed the field and surrounded the players.

Before long, the players were engulfed in a sea of red that not even Moses could part.

In the middle of that sea, being passed around by the players, was the Territorial Cup. Seniors such as Mickey Baucus and Steven Gurrola were among those who got a hand on the nation’s oldest recognized rivalry trophy by the NCAA.

Baucus said he heard about the Stanford upset with five minutes left in the game from “a little bird” and was anxious the rest of the game.

The Wildcats started out the rivalry game with a bang when UA linebacker Scooby Wright sacked and forced a fumble on ASU starting quarterback Taylor Kelly, leading to a 25-yard scoop and score from UA safety Anthony Lopez.

Wright finished the game with 13 total tackles, five tackles for loss and two sacks, while UA safety Tra’Mayne Bondurant recorded 11 total tackles, two tackles for loss and one sack. As a whole, the Arizona defense registered 76 total tackles, 15 tackles for loss, seven sacks, one forced fumble and one interception.

From the offensive side of the ball, it was all Nick Wilson and Samajie Grant. The freshman running back ended with 178 rushing yards and three touchdowns, including two critical second-half touchdowns. Grant hauled in two touchdowns and recorded 91 receiving yards, including a 69-yard touchdown that started with him on the left side of the field and ended with Grant twisting and turning his way across the field to score on the right side.

Arizona quarterback Anu Solomon, who’s been battling ankle injuries over the past couple of weeks and missed the majority of the second half against Utah, started and played through his pain to account for 208 passing yards and two touchdowns on 15-21 attempts.

Despite noticeably wincing after most hits, Solomon played the entirety of the game and helped lead the Wildcats to victory.

“He’s a tough son of a gun — what can you say?” Baucus said. “He wasn’t able to play last week, and I’m sure he was still feeling it today. From the way he played and the way he was acting on the sidelines, you couldn’t tell. That’s just who Anu is.”

Playing in his last home game of his collegiate career, UA safety Jourdon Grandon, who also recorded the lone UA interception of the game, summed up his performance after the matchup.

“I couldn’t go out in a better way,” Grandon said. “Being home, have all my family here, playing the upstate rivals and just getting the interception to help win the game. Just looking back and seeing where I came from — it just makes me so happy to be where I’m at now.”

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Follow Roberto Payne on Twitter.

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