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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

No. 19 Arizona football dismantles No. 16 Utah in its final home game of the regular season

Arizona+football+wide+receiver+Tetairoa+McMillan+%284%29+secures+a+20+yard+pass+during+the+football+game+against+Oregon+State+University+on+Saturday%2C+Oct.+28.+Arizona+won+the+game+27-24
Olivia Malone
Arizona football wide receiver Tetairoa McMillan (4) secures a 20 yard pass during the football game against Oregon State University on Saturday, Oct. 28. Arizona won the game 27-24

The No. 19 Arizona football team (8-3, 6-2 in Pac-12) hosted its final regular season game and final home game as a part of the Pac-12 against the No. 16 University of Utah (7-4, 4-4 in Pac-12) on Saturday, Nov. 18. The Wildcats defeated the Utes 42-18 with Arizona quarterback Noah Fifita leading the way with another lights-out performance, bouncing back from his sluggish play last week. He moves to 5-2 as a starter, helping the Wildcats win their fifth consecutive game, with four of the wins coming against ranked opponents, which Arizona hasn’t done since 1989.  

Offense:

In a display of sheer dominance, Fifita orchestrated the Arizona offense swiftly, amassing 253 yards on 22-of-30 passing with two touchdowns.

From the jump, the Wildcats showcased their hunger for a spot in the Pac-12 Championship Game and handled the two-time reigning Pac-12 champions. A trick play on the opening drive, featuring wide receiver Tetairoa McMillan‘s pass to running back Michael Wiley, resulted in a 21-yard touchdown, igniting the crowd and setting the tone for the game. Then another score came with 4:12 left in the first quarter on a 32-yard catch-and-run score from wide receiver Montana Lemonious-Craig, who caught a sideline pass at the line of scrimmage and then ran unscathed to the end zone. Then Wiley‘s dynamic performance continued with a 31-yard touchdown reception on the first play of the second quarter.

Arizona‘s explosive start accumulated 28 points in the first half, marking its highest-scoring half all season. Wiley secured two touchdown passes one each from Fifita and McMillan. McMillan‘s total contribution of eight catches for 116 yards made this performance his fourth 100-yard performance this season and the fifth of his career. Wiley ended his day with 92 total scrimmage yards (24 rushing, 68 receiving) and a pair of scores.

The Wildcats’ offensive juggernaut persisted, with running back Jonah Coleman‘s 1-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter extending the lead to 35-10.

Even former starting quarterback Jayden de Laura got in on the action as he saw the field late in the fourth quarter. He proceeded to throw a 51-yard touchdown bomb to McMillan to close out the game with Arizona scoring 42 points, its second-highest point total this season.  

Utah’s quarterback, Bryson Barnes, threw for a career-high 320 yards and two touchdowns, but faced adversity with two crucial interceptions, one coming in the red zone. Utah managed only three scores on seven consecutive drives into Arizona territory

Defense:

Despite missing key defensive players, Utah made defensive adjustments after Arizona‘s early offensive onslaught. However, Arizona‘s defense proved equally formidable.

Linebacker Jacob Manu set the tone for the defense by bringing Utah‘s first sustained drive to a halt with an interception at Arizona‘s 10-yard line. Although Barnes regrouped to find wide receiver Devaughn Vele for a 20-yard touchdown pass, the Wildcats maintained control, leading 28-7 at halftime.

From the outset, the Wildcats’ defense understood the assignment and came out firing and denying Utah any yards on the first drive, forcing a quick three-and-out. Defensive lineman Taylor Upshaw’s impactful play on Utah’s third sustained offensive drive resulted in another three-and-out for the Wildcats’ defense. The Wildcats were able to outgain the Utes 196-23 in the first quarter and retained firm control of the game in the first half

Maintaining an 18-point lead late in the third quarter, Arizona‘s defense held once again after Utah attempted to convert on fourth down. However, cornerback Treydan Stukes intercepted Barnes, with assistance from linebacker Dominic Lolesio‘s quarterback pressure, securing the Wildcats’ second turnover.

Dalton Johnson applied the final touches with a final sack on Barnes, preventing Utah from converting a fourth-and-20 in the fourth quarter. Despite a late garbage-time touchdown by Utah, the Wildcats keep their winning streak alive

Special teams:

An up-and-down performance from this unit began in the first quarter, when Anthony Ward juked a blocker, smothered Utah’s Jack Bouwmeester’s punt, and returned it two yards for a touchdown. This electrifying play allowed Arizona to get out to an early 14-0 lead. 

However, as the first half came to a close, Utah‘s Connor O’Toole partially blocked kicker Tyler Loop’s 37-yard field goal attempt, ending his perfect month of nine consecutive successful attempts over the previous four weeks. In the third quarter, Loop also missed on a 50-yard field goal attempt after rain in the second quarter. This marked the first time in the season that Loop had multiple misses. Despite these challenges, Arizona‘s special teams remained resilient, contributing to the team’s overall success and helping to secure this win. 

Looking ahead:

On Saturday, Nov. 25, Arizona will head back on the road to play in its final regular season game of the season against in-state rival ASU for the annual Territorial Cup. The Sun Devils are coming off a 49-13 loss to the No. 6 University of Oregon, and with this upcoming game being the last of the Wildcats’ regular season, they will need help from around the conference if they hope to play in the Pac-12 Championship Game in Las Vegas on Friday, Dec. 1. 


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