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The Daily Wildcat

 

Arizona football secures bowl eligibility with third consecutive ranked victory over No. 20 UCLA

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Mason Kumet
Fans congratulate Arizona football safety DJ Warnell Jr. (14) after Arizona beat No. 20 UCLA 27-10 in the Homecoming football game. Warnell Jr. transferred to Arizona from UCLA earlier in his career.

The Arizona football team hosted No. 20 UCLA for its Homecoming matchup on Saturday, Nov. 4, and came out victorious with a final score of 27-10, pulling off another upset. With this win, the Wildcats have won three consecutive games over ranked opponents, a feat that has never been achieved in program history

Now that Arizona has secured its sixth victory of the season, it has clinched a bowl game for the first time since 2017. The Wildcats, led by starting quarterback Noah Fifita, held the lead from wire-to-wire in this game. They simply were the better team on all three phases, and despite UCLA having certain advantages over Arizona in key spots, none of them played enough of a factor to tip the scales in the Bruins’ favor. Arizona took control of the game early and held on throughout for its second straight victory over the Bruins in back-to-back seasons

Offense

Fifita, despite an early interception, continued to showcase his savviness and smarts as the primary signal caller for Arizona, throwing for 300 yards and three touchdowns on 25-of-32 passing. All three starting wide receivers, including Tetairoa McMillan, played crucial roles in this victory, with each of them catching touchdown passes that allowed Arizona‘s offense to build on its lead. Notably, Fifita‘s ability to orchestrate quick-hitting passes in the first half set the stage for two crucial touchdowns passes to Montana Lemonious-Craig and Jacob Cowing, which gave the Wildcats a 14-7 lead at halftime.

The Wildcats‘ offensive versatility was on full display as they managed to run for 129 yards against UCLA‘s formidable run defense, which had held opponents to just 63.1 yards per game. This balanced offensive approach kept the Bruins‘ defense guessing throughout the game.

As the game progressed, Arizona‘s offensive control continued into the fourth quarter, with a perfectly thrown 11-yard touchdown pass to McMillan. The touchdown, initially ruled incomplete but changed upon review, extended their lead to 24-10. This score followed a facemask penalty against UCLA and a crucial 30-yard reception by Tanner McLachlan on third down, highlighting the Wildcats’ ability to capitalize on opportunities.

Defense

Arizona‘s defense came through once again, continuing to be this team’s backbone as they stifled UCLA’s offensive efforts all night long. They limited the Bruins to just 10 points on five trips to the red zone. The Wildcats‘ defense secured three sacks, with notable contributions from players like Jacob Manu and Taylor Upshaw, who disrupted the Bruins‘ offensive rhythm. The defense’s ability to hold one of the best rushing teams in the Pac-12 to just over half of their typical yardage on the ground further emphasized their effectiveness.

Special teams

Arizona‘s special teams played a vital role in the game as well, adding an intriguing dimension to the Wildcats‘ performance. They managed to block their second field goal of the season, disrupting UCLA‘s attempts to score. However, the Wildcats also experienced a setback when a punt was blocked, giving UCLA prime field position. But, the defense managed to hold firm and not surrender any points. The contributions from this unit have continued to bolster the overall Arizona team, and this trend will need to continue as they close out the regular season and approach bowl season.  

Looking ahead:

With this victory, Arizona continues its remarkable stretch of games against ranked opponents, with a 3-2 record over the last five matchups. Their only two losses during this stretch came by a combined 9 points, underscoring their competitiveness against top-tier teams.

Next on the horizon, Arizona travels on the road to face the University of Colorado Boulder on Saturday, Nov. 11, at noon. The Buffaloes will be coming off a Week 10 loss 26-19 at home to No. 16 Oregon State University. The Wildcats are determined to build on their recent success, as they could find themselves ranked for the first time this season


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