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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


No. 16 Arizona football demolishes ASU, wins Territorial Cup for second straight year

The Wildcats pass nine wins for the first time since 2014
Mason Kumet
Dalton Johnson and the team pose with Arizona’s “turnover sword” after intercepting the ball from Arizona State during the 2023 Territorial Cup in Tempe, Arizona. Arizona has now won the Cup two years in a row.

“No pity for the kitty” and “70-7” have been the default rallying cries for ASU fans since the embarrassing defeat the Arizona football team took in 2020 in Tempe. After winning the 2022 matchup in Tucson, the Wildcats finally repaid the favor in full in 2023 with a blowout of their own in enemy territory and demolished ASU by 36 points to win 59-23 on the road at Mountain America Stadium in Tempe.

With the win, the Wildcats move to 9-3 on the season, hold sole possession of third place in the Pac-12 and are staring a Sun Bowl or an Alamo Bowl bid in the face to cap off the final season of the Pac-12. The Wildcats end the regular season on a six-game win streak, and they haven’t tasted defeat since early October.


The Wildcats put on a record-breaking masterclass in offensive firepower. The passing game was as potent as it has been all season, and the Wildcats posted over 600 yards of total offense. The pass catchers – especially Tetairoa McMillan – were the stars of the show.

Quarterback Noah Fifita punctuated his first season as the starter by setting an Arizona program record for passing yards in a game. Fifita completed 30 of 41 passes for an astronomical 527 yards and five touchdowns, with his only blemish on the day being a single interception. He surpassed the previous record – Anu Solomon’s 520-yard day in 2014 – by just seven yards while also posting his second five-touchdown performance of the season.

McMillan posted a career-high 266 yards and a touchdown on 11 catches. This is the second-highest receiving total in a game in program history behind Jeremy McDaniel’s 283-yard performance in 1996. The Sun Devils had no answer for the 6-foot-5 sophomore, who reached the 1,000-yard mark for the season and will head into postseason play with 1,242 receiving yards on the season.

Jacob Cowing, in his return to the Phoenix area, also posted his best game of the season: his first 100-yard outing of the year. Cowing caught nine passes for 156 yards and an Arizona program record-tying touchdown catch – his 11th of the year. Cowing also handily extended his streak of games with a reception to 56, keeping him locked one game behind Coastal Carolina University’s Sam Pinckney (57 games).

Tight end Tanner McLachlan also capped off his regular season with a bang. The 6-foot-5 Canadian hauled in a season-high seven receptions for 60 yards and found paydirt twice. McLachlan hadn’t scored twice in a game in his entire four-year career until today, and he also broke Rob Gronkowski’s program record for receptions as a tight end (75), with McLachlan ending today with 76 career receptions in an Arizona uniform.

Running back Michael Wiley was also feasting post Thanksgiving Thursday as well. In what feels like a flashback to the 2022 season, Wiley found the endzone three times – twice on the ground and once through the air – in a second straight Territorial Cup matchup.


The Arizona defense was swarming in the first half. The Sun Devils started with a touchdown on their opening drive to jump ahead 7-3. That was the last time ASU held a lead in the game, as they didn’t score again until four minutes were remaining in the third quarter. Two interceptions and a forced fumble all ground ASU drives to a halt, and ASU freshman quarterback Jaden Rashada struggled against a mostly-stout Wildcat defense.

The safety tandem of Gunner Maldonado and Dalton Johnson was flying all over the field. Johnson hauled in his first career interception while also posting two tackles for loss – one of them coming in the open field and forcing an ASU punt on fourth down. Maldonado snagged a pick of his own and returned it 40 yards to set the offense up on ASU’s 9-yard line which led to a touchdown. He also got his helmet on the ball on a swing pass and forced a fumble that was recovered by Jacob Kongaika. Both of them each posted at least five solo tackles in the game.

Two players – DJ Warnell Jr. and Jacob Manueach recorded a sack. Warnell, a backup defensive back, has found success on the safety blitz and recorded his second sack of the season. Manu posted six tackles and a TFL, placing him at 106 tackles on the season and making him the first Wildcat to join the 100-tackle club since Collin Schooler in 2018. Manu also recorded sack number 6.5 of the season. Manu and cornerback Treydan Stukes each recorded a TFL, and Taylor Upshaw also recorded a TFL that was on the verge of becoming sack 9.5 on the season.

Looking ahead

With the 2023 regular season completed, the Wildcats will be looking forward to Bowl Game season for the first time in six years. Arizona will be looking to get an invite to the Sun Bowl, played in El Paso, Texas, on Friday, Dec. 29, against an ACC foe. If that doesn’t come to fruition, though, and the University of Utah receives that bid instead, the Wildcats will be heading to San Antonio, Texas, to play in the Alamo Bowl on Thursday, Dec. 28.

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