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Wildcats settle the score, rout ASU in Territorial Cup

Anthony Gimino Avatar
November 25, 2023
Arizona Wildcats running back Michael Wiley celebrates with quarterback Noah Fifita after scoring a touchdown against Arizona State (Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)

The Arizona Wildcats could have scored 70.

You know that. We know that. ASU probably knows that.

You wanted 70 – you damn near needed 70 injected right into your veins — to match the ridiculous total Arizona State put up on hapless Kevin Sumlin and the Wildcats back in 2020. Sun Devil fans have been taking victory laps and putting up billboards with that number for three long years.

So, while the result of Saturday’s game in Tempe didn’t quite turn the score around and isn’t quite as sexy as 70-7, it was an oh-so-satisfying payback on a record-setting day for the Wildcats.

I mean, 59-23 ain’t bad.

“To see our seniors do that was pretty awesome,” said coach Jedd Fisch.

And the Wildcats really could have scored 70.

Things were truckin’ in that direction when Noah Fifita connected with a wide-open Tetairoa McMillan for a 50-yard touchdown and a 52-7 lead with 9:08 left in the third quarter. But the Wildcats seemed to power down a bit after that, and Arizona State put together a couple of touchdown drives, and so Arizona had to merely settle for their biggest margin of victory ever (36 points) over Arizona State in Tempe.

And Fifita set school and Territorial Cup records with 527 passing yards to go along with five touchdowns.

And McMillan caught 11 passes for a 266 yards, the most ever in the Territorial Cup and the second-most ever in Arizona history.

And the Wildcats rolled to their most yards ever (619) against the Sun Devils.

As I wrote earlier this week, when you have a chance to stomp on your rival, then you dang well better not miss your shot to stomp on your rival.

So, yeah, 59-23.

That’ll do.

That’s enough payback for anyone.

No pity from the kitty.

“It means everything to me,” junior safety Gunner Maldonado, who is from Chandler, told WildcatsRadio 1290 after the game.

“I grew up watching and coming to these games. These games, you’re playing for everybody who ever wore the Block A. So, when you’re out there, it just means so much more. You just want it so bad for the people on the sideline and in the stands.”

That 70-7 loss three years ago was the 12th consecutive defeat for Arizona. Fisch then lost his first eight games in 2021, including a horrible, humbling 21-19 loss to NAU.

But he also was busy raiding Servite High School in Anaheim, Calif., and that potent payoff was evident yet again Saturday with Fifita, McMillan and season-leading tackle Jacob Manu providing the foundation of a team that could very well go into its initial Big 12 season as the league favorite in 2024.

Watch the postgame podcast from the PHNX Wildcats crew.

Arizona, ranked 15th in last week’s College Football Playoff rankings, is 9-3 and could end up with the program’s fourth 10-win season and be the third Wildcats team to finish in the AP Top 10.

“I had high aspirations for what we were going to do here,” Fisch said. “If I didn’t think we could win nine games, I wouldn’t have moved my family here,” Fisch said after Saturday’s game.

“I guess the wins speak for the culture. These guys have done an amazing job of believing in what we’ve asked them to do. … And when you do that, great things come your way.”

Great things are here for the wildcats

Let’s not forget that senior Michael Wiley, who scored the lone Arizona touchdown in the 70-7 loss in 2020, will go out with a two-game winning streak against the Sun Devils. He was the MVP of the game last season (214 rushing yards, three TDs) and scored three more touchdowns on Saturday.

Fisch tried to get him a fourth score Saturday, feeding him the ball from the ASU 4 and the 1 late in the game, before Fifita ended up hitting Jacob Cowing in the end zone.

“For me, it felt great to be able to represent the past seniors that were here,” Wiley said. “And to be a part of what they had to go through, and to finally be at a point where it’s basically opposite from what it was two or three years ago. It feels great.”

Yeah. It feels great: 59-23 is close enough to 70-7.

Let’s just say that Arizona has settled the score.

Follow Anthony Gimino on X

Top photo: Arizona Wildcats running back Michael Wiley celebrates with quarterback Noah Fifita after scoring a touchdown against Arizona State (Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)

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