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Arizona Wildcats football: Let’s enjoy the wild ride

Anthony Gimino Avatar
November 19, 2023
Arizona tight end Tanner McLachlan celebrates after a Wildcats touchdown against Utah. (Zachary BonDurant-USA TODAY Sports)

Multiple texts hit my phone during the Arizona Wildcats’ 42-18 victory over No. 22 Utah on Saturday.

Are the rumors of Jedd Fisch interviewing at Michigan State true?

How much money are we going to need to keep Jedd?

Is he going to UCLA?

First of all, I don’t know! Secondly, let’s just take a deep breath and enjoy all of what we’re seeing in this wild ride of a season. Because it hasn’t come around these parts all that often.

Let’s enjoy the five-game winning streak, the first since early in the 2014 season.

Let’s enjoy an 8-3 record, the first time the Wildcats have reached eight since 2014.

Let’s celebrate that Arizona has four victories over ranked teams for the first time since 1989.

Let’s raise a glass to Noah Fifita, arguably the best QB so far from the 2022 class. His passing efficiency rating of 159.6 is the highest in the nation among second-year quarterbacks (and 15th overall).

Let’s toast Jonah Coleman, whose average of 7.07 yards per carry is the highest in the nation among second-year running backs (and sixth overall).

Let’s delight in Tetairoa McMillan, maker of one-handed catches, thrower of touchdowns, future All-American and likely 2025 first-round wide receiver.

Let’s savor that Arizona enters the final week of the regular season in third place in the Pac-12 and can reach the conference championship game if Oregon State wins at Oregon on Friday night (stranger things have happened), and the Wildcats win at Arizona State on Saturday (1:30 p.m., ESPN).

Let’s enjoy that No. 16 ranking in the AP poll this week.

Let’s be super aware that it was just over two years ago that Arizona was at its lowest, below even the Mackovic Line, as the Wildcats’ losing streak had extended to 20 games while Fisch was digging out of the wreckage of the Kevin Sumlin disaster.

“Our guys, they play confidently,” Fisch said Saturday after the victory over Utah.

“They believe in one another. They believe in what the mission is. The mission is to go out there and play great next week, but I really feel like we built it the way we wanted to build it.

“We talked about that first year. I really felt like it was Year Zero. I felt like we had to really just figure out who we were going to be. What did we want the program to look like? How are we going to lay the foundation?

“And then last year, we took a huge jump, and I don’t want to ever not give credit to last year’s success. I know we only won five games, but when you can go from 120th on offense to sixth, people want to come here. We became exciting. People wanted to watch us; people wanted to be a part of it. Defensive players want to transfer in, and young players want to keep coming.

“And because of that bridge, it allowed us to get to where we are today.”

Let’s rejoice that the Wildcats have tall cover men in the secondary like Treydan Stukes and Ephesians Prysock, both sophomores.

Let’s enjoy that the foundation for the offensive line includes sophomore Jonah Savaiinaea (a future NFLer), sophomore Leif Magnuson, redshirt freshman Wendell Moe and true freshman Raymond Pulido.

Let’s enjoy the fact that linebacker Jacob Manu is going to lead this team in tackles this season and for the next two.

Let’s celebrate a run defense that is 13th in the country, allowing 101.1 yards per game.

Let’s rejoice that Arizona is never no longer the less physical team – like it had been against Utah for several seasons. But not on Saturday.

“I think it signifies that we’ve had a great year and that we’re not going to back down to anybody,” Fisch said of the win. “And we feel really good about trying to continue to improve, get more physical, get tougher.”

Watch the PHNX Wildcats postgame podcast from the Utah game.

Let’s be comforted that Tyler Loop – who doinked a 50-yarder off an upright on Saturday – does indeed have the range when the Wildcats need it.

Let’s take pleasure in watching the Wildcats have a pass rush for the first time in almost a decade.

Let’s be relieved that Arizona excels in critical situations, ranking ninth nationally in red zone offense and 12th in the country in red zone defense.

Let’s enjoy that you can count on the Wildcats to make adjustments and use their depth, posting a 182-86 scoring edge in the second half of games.

Let’s appreciate that Fisch has restored alumni relations and that we get to regularly see and hear from stars such as Rob Waldrop, Tedy Bruschi, Ka’Deem Carey, Rob Gronkowski, Antoine Cason, Scooby Wright, and so many others.

Let’s enjoy the fact that the head coach is going to be mentioned for other high-profile jobs.

Because it sure as hell beats the alternative.

All right then.

Let’s go enjoy Territorial Cup Week, y’all.

Follow Anthony Gimino on X

Arizona tight end Tanner McLachlan celebrates after a Wildcats touchdown against Utah. (Zachary BonDurant-USA TODAY Sports)

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