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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Arizona football vs. USC recap: Wildcats fall short in triple-overtime thriller

The Wildcats fell to 3-3

The Arizona football team lost to No. 9 USC 43-41 in triple overtime on Saturday, Oct. 7, at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Despite the outcome, the Wildcats played USC as well as any team has all season and the Trojans needed to take full advantage of the new overtime rules to escape with a win.

USC’s reigning Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Caleb Williams looked mortal for the first time this season and needed to make magic happen in order to stave off the Wildcats. On the other hand, Noah Fifita looked like a seasoned veteran in a statement performance.


 Sophomore quarterback Fifita balled out in his second career start, going 25-for-35 for 302 yards and an eye-popping 5 touchdowns. He showed off his chemistry with wide receiver Tetairoa McMillan, who posted a stat line of six catches for 138 yards. However, he quickly shifted focus to wide receiver Jacob Cowing, who kept getting open at the right times. Fifita never backed down and gave his receivers chances to make plays, standing tall in the pocket and showing a penchant for letting it rip.

Cowing showed off his ability to shake defenders in the red zone. In addition to hauling in 10 of his 13 targets for 87 yards, he caught four of Fifita’s five touchdown passes. Not only is this a career-high in touchdowns in a single game, but it also doubles his season total from 4 to 8. Cowing also hit 4,000 career receiving yards while adding to his streak of games with a reception, with this outing being his 50th and putting him just four games shy of tying Bryan Anderson’s record and five short of breaking it.

Running back Jonah Coleman had a career day in starter Michael Wiley’s second straight absence. Coleman earned both the most carries and yards he’s had in a game in his collegiate career by a long shot. He posted 143 yards on 21 carries and another 37 yards on four catches for a grand total of 180 yards from scrimmage. This was Coleman’s first 100-yard game and his first game of 20+ touches in his career.

The offense did everything they needed to do to win this game. Even in overtime, Fifita and the offense went toe-to-toe with USC, matching their touchdown and extra point kick in the first overtime and touchdown with a successful 2-point conversion in the second. It was the third overtime after USC scored their 2-point conversion to take a 43-41 lead, where head coach Jedd Fisch decided to take the ball out of Fifita’s hands and the game ended on a run play that was stuffed behind the line of scrimmage.


Penalties were the story of the second half for an Arizona defense that was swarming to begin the game. The defense started strong, allowing Arizona to jump out to a quick 17-0 lead while holding Williams to just four completions on 10 attempts for 115 yards and no touchdowns by the end of the first half. Williams was sacked a season-high four times in the game and was dealt hard hits by defensive end Taylor Upshaw and defensive back Martell Irby. Russell Davis II had a solid game, leading the team in both sacks and tackles for loss, with 1.5 and 2.5, respectively.

Isaiah Ward forced the only USC fumble of the night, which was quickly recovered by Irby. However, the ensuing drive ended when Fifita threw his only interception of the night early in the second quarter. Despite barely holding onto a 17-14 lead heading into halftime, the Wildcats seemed to be in a good position.

That’s when the wheels fell off.

With USC driving down the field in the third quarter down 20-14, cornerback Tacario Davis committed a defensive pass interference on former Wildcat Dorian Singer on a crucial fourth down play. This resulted in a 15-yard penalty and a fresh set of downs. Just two plays later, linebacker Justin Flowe committed one of the most avoidable roughing-the-passer penalties of the Wildcats’ season, flattening Williams well after he had thrown the ball in Singer’s direction. This, once again, afforded USC a fresh set of downs and brought them 11 yards closer to the Arizona 10-yard line, and MarShawn Lloyd punched it in to give USC the 21-20 lead.

Tyler Manoa later committed an illegal use of hands penalty that set USC up on the Arizona 1-yard line, where Williams was able to work his way in on the ground. There were two more defensive penalties in the fourth quarter, including a second roughing the passer call but this time on Ta’ita’i Uiagalelei.

Special teams

It certainly felt like one of those nights where special teams would make the difference. Fisch sent kicker Tyler Loop out for his first career attempt from 50 yards with just over two minutes remaining in the game. Loop missed his first attempt of the season and the Trojans took over on downs with the score tied at 28-28.

With the Wildcats surprisingly staying in this game, it all came down to a field goal attempt from USC’s Denis Lynch with two seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. However, the snap was high and the holder had trouble corralling it, and the special teams unit tackled the holder to send the game into overtime.

Arizona (3-3, 1-2 in Pac-12 play) stays on the road as they travel to Pullman, Washington, next Saturday, Oct. 14 to continue conference play. The Wildcats will look to finally string together a complete performance as they face another familiar yet challenging foe in the Cougars.

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