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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

No. 14 Arizona outlasts No. 12 Oklahoma in Valero Alamo Bowl

Wildcats win their first bowl game since 2015
Arizona+football+linebacker+Jacob+Manu+%285%29+grabs+the+football+and+turns+over+to+the+crowd+on+Saturday%2C+Nov.+18%2C+at+Arizona+Stadium.+The+No.+19+Wildcats+beat+the+No.+16+University+of+Utah+42-18.%0A
Kohichiro Yamada
Arizona football linebacker Jacob Manu (5) grabs the football and turns over to the crowd on Saturday, Nov. 18, at Arizona Stadium. The No. 19 Wildcats beat the No. 16 University of Utah 42-18.

The No. 14 Arizona football team (10-3, 7-2 in Pac-12) held off the No. 12 University of Oklahoma (10-3, 7-2 in Big 12) in the Alamodome on Thursday, Dec. 28, in the 2023 Valero Alamo Bowl. The Wildcats emerged victorious, securing a 38-24 win, marking their first bowl victory since 2015 when they defeated the University of New Mexico in the New Mexico Bowl.

As the Wildcats close out their season, they do so as winners of seven straight games, a remarkable streak that adds to the significance of their Alamo Bowl win. This victory comes as Arizona prepares to transition from the Pac-12 to the Big 12 next season. Coincidentally, Oklahoma, their recent opponents and fellow Big 12 member, is also set to leave the conference, making a move to the Southeastern Conference. The win not only solidifies Arizona‘s season but sets the stage for their future in a new conference landscape.

Offense

The Wildcats, under the leadership of redshirt freshman quarterback Noah Fifita, pulled off this comeback victory against the Sooners.

Senior wide receiver, and Reese’s Senior Bowl invitee, Jacob Cowing, named Offensive Most Valuable Player of the Alamo Bowl, showcased his historic performance with two touchdown receptions, giving him 13 for the season — the most in a single season in program history. Cowing also logged his second consecutive 100-yard receiving performance of the season, marking the 19th of his career.

Leading receiver Tetairoa McMillan had his skills on full display in this contest with his 10 receptions for 160 yards which were a game-high and most recorded by a Wildcat ever in a bowl game. The Wildcats’ offense demonstrated impressive firepower, posting over 350 yards of total offense. Fifita ended the night completing 24 of 38 passes for 354 yards and two touchdowns and one interception.

With McMillan‘s stellar night, he finished the season with 1402 receiving yards, which is the second-most all-time at Arizona, falling 20 yards short of Dennis Northcutt’s 1,422-yard season in 1999.

The run game was unable to really get going tonight, but the running back trio of Michael Wiley, Jonah Coleman and DJ Williams combined for 66 yards on the ground, and Williams had one rushing touchdown. The Wildcats‘ offense showcased depth and gave a masterclass in offensive firepower.

In his typical press conference opening remarks, head coach Jedd Fisch had this to say about his team’s performance tonight:

“As a team, we just played great football, but — more than anything — I would say two years ago we started this journey […]. We went 1-11, and everyone believed in what we were trying to get done […]. Just for this team, the amount of players we have that joined us while we were going through adversity, for them to be able to experience this now is pretty amazing.” 

Defense

The Arizona defense, despite allowing the most yards all season, demonstrated resilience through the game. Safety Gunner Maldonado, voted Defensive MVP of the Alamo Bowl, played the game of his life against the Sooners, returning a fumble 87 yards for a touchdown and securing an interception in the game. Defensive back Martell Irby’s interception in the third quarter was his first of the season. Freshman safety Genesis Smith also recorded his first career interception on Oklahoma’s opening drive.

Safety DJ Warnell Jr., defensive linemen Russell Davis II and Isaiah Ward all recorded a sack, and the defense forced six turnoversa season-high — converting them into 28 points. Despite 24 consecutive points by Oklahoma in the middle of the game, the Wildcats’ defense held firm in the end and helped to secure this victory over Oklahoma.

Looking ahead

With this win, the Wildcats look ahead to their transition to the Big 12 with momentum and a memorable bowl victory, capping off a remarkable season. The victory in the 2023 Valero Alamo Bowl not only ended the Wildcats’ bowl drought, but also secured their fourth 10-win season in school history.


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