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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Arizona football vs. No. 19 Washington State preview: Can the Wildcats finally beat a ranked foe?

Arizona+football+running+back+Jonah+Coleman+%283%29+is+hyped+to+play+against+UTEP+at+Arizona+Stadium+on+Saturday%2C+Sept.+16.+The+Wildcats+won+with+a+score+of+31-10.
Danielle Main
Arizona football running back Jonah Coleman (3) is hyped to play against UTEP at Arizona Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 16. The Wildcats won with a score of 31-10.

The Arizona football team will be heading to Pullman, Washington, for a matchup against No. 19 Washington State University on Saturday, Oct. 14, that kicks off at 4 p.m.

The Wildcats are coming off a second consecutive game where they stuck around against a top-10 opponent far longer than expected thanks to some heroics by Noah Fifita and Jacob Cowing. The Cougars, meanwhile, are coming off their first loss of the season against now-No. 18 UCLA and the worst performance of the season from Cameron Ward, their star quarterback.

History

Though Arizona leads the all-time series 27-19, it has struggled in recent years. The Wildcats’ last win was a 58-37 shootout in Tucson in 2017. Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate Jr. passed for 275 yards and 2 touchdowns while also posting 146 yards and a touchdown on the ground. However, Arizona hasn’t scored more than 28 in any of the three subsequent matches while Washington State hasn’t scored less than 31 in the same timeframe.

Arizona’s last win on the road in this series was in 2014. The Anu Solomon-led Wildcats were ranked at No. 15 and blew the doors off of Washington State 59-37. Solomon passed for 5 touchdowns – and no interceptions – while running back Terris Jones-Grigsby posted 107 yards on 13 carries. Kick returner Cayleb Jones and punt returner DaVonte Neal each also found the endzone on return duties.

Washington State is 6-4 in the last 10 matchups, which includes the Cougars’ largest margin of victory – a 69-7 shellacking of the Wildcats in Pullman in 2016. Arizona also dropped the last game in 2022 in Tucson, where Washington State served up a 31-20 defeat and quarterback Jayden de Laura was sacked twice and threw four interceptions. 

Washington State’s season

Despite the loss last week against UCLA, Washington State has had a stellar season so far. The Cougars have started 4-1 for a second consecutive season with head coach Jake Dickert leading the charge.

Ward is in his second season at the helm after transferring in from the Football Championship Subdivision-level University of the Incarnate Word, and he took the job in stride, passing for over 3,200 yards and 23 touchdowns in his first year against high-level competition. Ward has been off to a hot start in the 2023 season; he’s 24th in the nation in passing yards (1,587) and tied for 5th-most in passing touchdowns with 14.

Washington State has scored 30+ points in every game except the most recent one, including their two ranked matchups. In Week 2, the Cougars hosted the No. 19 University of Wisconsin and handed them a 31-22 defeat in a game where Ward threw 2 touchdown passes and led the team in rushing. In Week 5, the Cougars hosted No. 14 Oregon State University and narrowly escaped with a 38-35 win. Wide receiver Josh Kelly put on a clinic, hauling in eight catches for 159 yards and 3 of Ward’s 4 touchdown passes – while still not leading his team in receiving yards.

Wildcats to watch

After spending his first two collegiate seasons there – and getting permanently suspended from the team – de Laura opted to transfer down to the desert to assume the open starting role. Since leaving the Pacific Northwest, though, the Cougars have had his number. His 2022 performance, his first against his former team, showed much to be desired. He passed for 357 yards and a touchdown while also finding the endzone on the ground, but he only completed 28 of his 46 pass attempts, threw four interceptions, was sacked twice, and finished the day with -10 rushing yards. 

De Laura will be looking to prove not only that he can take down his former team, but also that he is the starting quarterback moving forward. Sophomore quarterback Noah Fifita was stellar in his first two starts where he took on two top-10 teams and nearly led the Wildcats to a win against formerly ranked-No. 9 USC. Head coach Jedd Fisch has been insistent that de Laura is still the starter when healthy, but another tough outing for de Laura may force Fisch into starting Fifita for the rest of the season.


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