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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Arizona football vs. Washington preview: Can the Wildcats keep up with the most explosive offense in the country?

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Amelia McAnear
Arizona wide receiver Tetairoa McMillan (4) dodges a tackle, resulting in a touchdown against UTEP on Saturday, Sept. 16 at Arizona Stadium. The Wildcats won the game 31-10, improving to 2-1 on the season.

The Arizona football team has a tall task ahead of them when the No. 7-ranked University of Washington comes to Tucson on Saturday, Sept. 30. Arizona (3-1, 1-0 in Pac-12) squeaked by Stanford University in a close 21-20 win that saw starting quarterback Jayden de Laura struggle on the field and eventually leave with an injury. They will be hosting Washington (4-0, 1-0 in Pac-12) in their Pac-12 home opener for a 7 p.m. kickoff.

History

Arizona and Washington’s history dates back to 1978 when Arizona and ASU joined the Pac-8 from the Western Athletic Conference, officially forming the Pac-10 and setting the roots of the conference as it’s known today. Arizona is 11-25-1 all-time against the Huskies and is riding a six-game losing streak that started on Oct. 31, 2015, where the Wildcats were blown out in a 49-3 horror show on Halloween night. 

Arizona’s last win against Washington was on Nov. 15, 2014, where they squeaked out a narrow 27-26 victory at home. Quarterback Anu Solomon struggled, completing just 17 of his 39 pass attempts for 249 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions while being sacked twice. Running back Nick Wilson posted 104 yards and 2 touchdowns, but the most valuable player in this game was kicker Casey Skowron. Skowron found the endzone from 18 yards out on a trick play while also hitting all three PATs and both of his field goal attempts – the second of which came as time expired to win the game.

One thing in Arizona’s favor is the fact that this is a home game. Arizona struggles in Seattle, and they haven’t won on the road in this series since 2007. Arizona’s home record is a more manageable 7-9-1, with an even 5-5 split in the last 10 games in Tucson. The 2016 matchup in Tucson ended after Washington scored a touchdown in overtime, and the 2021 matchup was a one-score affair, so Arizona has proven they can stay within striking distance.

Washington’s season so far 

Washington has arguably the best offense in the country. The Huskies, led by Heisman Award-frontrunner quarterback Michael Penix Jr. and their trio of NFL-caliber wide receivers, lead the nation in passing offense, passing yards per game and total yards per game. Penix leads the nation in both passing yards and passing touchdowns.

Washington is one of two programs to have three wide receivers in the top 50 yardage leaders on the season. Rome Odunze – a future first-round NFL draft pick – is second in the nation in yards with 544. Second on the team and 13th in the nation is Ja’Lynn Polk with 427 yards. Finally, third on the team and 41st in the nation is Jalen McMillan with 311 yards. Odunze and Polk have each posted 4 touchdowns so far this season too. Even tight end Jack Westover, though lacking in the yardage department, has found paydirt four times.

Washington has impressed in all four of their games to this point; they’ve scored 50+ points twice. They score an average of 49.75 points per game, with their lowest total coming against Michigan State University in Week 3. This was a game where the Huskies held Michigan State to just 7 points on the road in East Lansing, Michigan. They’re coming off a 59-32 drumming of the University of California Berkeley at home in Seattle and show few signs of slowing down.

Wildcats to watch

With starting quarterback Jayden de Laura going down at the end of the third quarter in the Week 3 game against Stanford, keep an eye out for sophomore backup Noah Fifita. Though he hasn’t started a game yet in his collegiate career, he has shown promise. He has made six appearances across the 2022 and 2023 seasons with a career stat line of 17-for-27 for 197 yards and a touchdown, largely in garbage time appearances. He has yet to throw an incomplete pass this season, going a perfect 4-for-4 for 47 yards against Stanford while leaning on a potent run game and posting a season line of 8-for-8 for 69 yards.

Fifita – in the event he starts – will likely look to his high school teammate and rising star Tetairoa McMillan. The two, alongside star linebacker Jacob Manu and backup tight end Keyan Burnett, attended Servite High School in Anaheim, California and were in the 2022 recruiting class. McMillan has established himself as a force in this offense and has utilized his 6-foot-5 frame to make some unbelievable contested catches. He currently leads the team in receiving yards and is tied for the team lead in touchdowns.

In for the toughest battles are cornerbacks Treydan Stukes, Dylan Wyatt and Ephesians Prysock. They will be facing off against a trio of extremely talented receivers who will need to be kept in check for the Wildcats to come through with a win. The safety tandem of Gunner Maldonado and Dalton Johnson will also need to keep their heads on a swivel and not be afraid to dish out big hits and take calculated risks when it comes to turnovers and pass breakups.

Arizona is in for a tough matchup against an opponent they haven’t done well against historically. If Arizona’s offense can operate like a well-oiled machine regardless of who the signal caller is and the defense is firing on all cylinders, there is a slim chance of stunning Washington and sending them home with their first loss of the season.


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