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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Column: Arizona football avoids trap game, defeats Cougars 59-37

Tyler+Baker+%2F+The+Daily+Wildcat%0A%0ADuring+the+first+half+of+Arizonas+28-26+loss+to+USC+at+Arizona+Stadium+on+October+11th.
Tyler Baker
Tyler Baker / The Daily Wildcat During the first half of Arizona’s 28-26 loss to USC at Arizona Stadium on October 11th.

If ever there was a trap game, this was it.

Sandwiched between games against Pac-12 Conference  glamour programs USC and UCLA was a trip to sleepy Pullman, Wash., and a 2-5 Washington State team. Wazzu is so dull that its flashy uniforms are all gray.

However, Washington State lost to Oregon by just seven and beat Utah, which is currently ranked 18th on the road.

The long trip from Tucson to Pullman, Wash., is one of the toughest in the country, and a desperate Cougar team was awaiting the Wildcats. A loss would all but knock Washington State out of bowl contention.

All signs were pointing to a rough trip to the Palouse. Everyone on College Game Day picked the Cougars to upset the Wildcats.

However, No. 14 Arizona (6-1, 3-1 Pac-12) would go on to spank the Cougars (2-6, 1-4) 59-37, and they played their most complete game of the year. Sure, the margin was 22 points, but that was after Washington State scored one of their customary garbage time touchdowns.

WSU head coach Mike Leach likes to pad the stats so much that then-Oregon defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti called out Leach last year for leaving the starters in the Ducks’ win over the Cougars, which Oregon won 62-38.

Regardless, Arizona redshirt freshman quarterback Anu Solomon (26-for-38, 294 yards, five touchdowns, zero interceptions) outdueled WSU senior quarterback Connor Halliday (56-for-72, 489 yards, four touchdowns, two interceptions) on Saturday. Going into the game, Halliday was first in the nation in passing, touchdowns, passing yards per game and total offense.

On the ground, UA redshirt senior running back Terris Jones-Grigsby ran for 113 yards on 13 carries, an average of 8.2 yards per carry.

On defense, Arizona got two interceptions and forced three fumbles, though they didn’t recover any. Going into the game, Arizona had four interceptions through six games.

Finally, on special teams, the Wildcats scored touchdowns on a punt return and kick-off return. The last time they scored on both types of special teams returns was 2009 against WSU.

So after the complete win, Arizona finds itself tied for first in the Pac-12 South and sitting pretty when the first College Football Playoff rankings come out on Tuesday.

With six wins, the Wildcats are bowl-eligible for the third year in a row in head coach Rich Rodriguez’s three seasons. After missing bowls every year from 1999 to 2007, the Wildcats have been bowl-eligible six times since.

However, the Wildcats, who are one play away from being 7-0, are poised to go to a better bowl than the Cactus Bowl or something like that.

Arizona has three home games and two road trips left in the regular season. If it takes care of UCLA, which almost lost to California and Colorado in back-to-back weeks, it has a couple of relatively stress-free home games in CU and Washington. Then, it closes out the season with Utah and No. 15 ASU, the two teams that are tied with the Wildcats atop the Pac-12 South.

The old Wildcats would stumble against the Buffaloes and Huskies, but with its dominating win at Washington State, Arizona has showed it won’t get trapped by mediocre Washington or last-place Colorado.

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Follow James Kelley on Twitter.

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