No. 19 Arizona took little time pulling away from No. 16 Utah, beating the Utes 42-18 in front of an official attendance of 50,800 fans on Saturday afternoon at Arizona Stadium for its fifth consecutive win.
Arizona (8-3, 6-2 Pac-12) has won five games in a row for the first time since winning the first five games of the 2014 season.
Arizona held a 28-0 lead early in the second quarter. Then the rain started, and the Wildcats wouldn’t score again for over two quarters as many fans left or headed for cover throughout the game.
A 1-yard rushing touchdown from Jonah Coleman midway through the fourth quarter gave Arizona a 35-10 lead, and it was more than enough to seal the win.
“We went 5-1 at home this year. Proud of our guys for that. We did a really great job taking care of the desert, and taking care of our stadium,” Arizona head coach Jedd Fisch said. “I thought our team played extremely well today. We came out the gates firing. We were able to score on special teams. We were able to take the ball in twice on offense.”
Arizona has eight wins with one regular season game left against Arizona State in the Territorial Cup, a bowl game ahead, and Pac-12 title game hopes alive. Still, Fisch doesn’t think the program is ahead of schedule in his third season as head coach.
“We’re really not. I thought they were really good. I thought that all training camp,” he said. “I told Dave (Arizona Athletic Director Dave Heeke) that. I told the president (Robert Robbins) that when he would come out to training camp. We just felt we were good.”
The process from year one to year three since Fisch arrived in Tucson is playing out like he planned it.
“We talked about that first year. I really felt that we had to just figure out what we were going to be and what we want the program to look like,” he said. “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 for 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 part of it.”
Arizona capped off a 75-yard drive on the opening possession of the game by scoring a touchdown on a 21-yard trick play — a pass from Tetairoa McMillan to Michael Wiley in the corner of the end zone.
After forcing Utah (7-4, 4-4 Pac-12) into a 3-and-out on the next possession, Anthony Ward blocked a punt at the 25-yard line and recovered it before running it in for a 2-yard touchdown to put the Wildcats up 14-0 with 8:32 to go in the first quarter.
Arizona forced another punt from the 35-yard line on Utah’s second possession of the game and followed it with a six-play 80-yard drive that ended with a 32-yard touchdown pass from Noah Fifita to Montana Lemonious-Craig, and like that, with 4:06 remaining in the first quarter, the Wildcats held a 21-0 lead over the Utes.
The Wildcats finished a 72-yard drive with a 31-yard touchdown reception from Fifita to Wiley to go up 28-0 with 14:51 to go in the second quarter.
On Utah’s following possession, Jacob Manu stopped a 13-play 60-yard drive with an interception off quarterback Bryson Barnes, returning it to the Utah 46-yard line with 7:48 remaining in the first half.
Utah’s first points came under a minute before halftime when Barnes found Devaughn Vele on a 20-yard touchdown pass in the corner of the end zone.
Utah blocked a 37-yard field goal attempt from Tyler Loop as time expired in the first half, and Arizona went into the locker room up 28-7.
The Utes capped off a 57-yard drive with a 36-yard field goal on the opening drive of the second half to cut Arizona’s lead to 28-10.
Loop missed an uncharacteristic second field goal attempt — this one from 50 yards — at the 5:39 mark in the third quarter.
Arizona’s defense held Utah on 4th-and-3 from the Wildcats’ 40-yard line with 3:52 left in the third quarter but punted on its next possession.
Treydan Stukes had an interception at the Arizona 39-yard line with 11:29 remaining in the game, leading to an eventual 25-yard run from Coleman to the 1-yard line. He would punch it in on the next play to put Arizona up 35-10 with 7:57 to go.
Dalton Johnson sacked Barnes on third-and-20 from the Arizona 40-yard line with 3:51 remaining. Barnes was called for intentional grounding, turning the ball over to Arizona.
After Jayden de Laura came in at quarterback to finish the game for the Wildcats, Arizona went three-and-out.
Utah’s Munir McClain caught a 2-yard touchdown reception with 2:44 remaining, and the Utes followed with a 2-point conversion.
But Arizona wasn’t finished.
Arizona recovered the ensuing onside kick, and de Laura threw a 51-yard touchdown pass to McMillan, putting the Wildcats up 42-18 with 30 seconds to go.
Arizona’s last win in the series was a 37-30 double-overtime victory over Utah in Tucson in 2015. Utah was ranked No. 10 at the time.
The Wildcats are now 11-12-2 at home against the Utes.
Fifita completed 22 of 30 passes for 253 yards and two touchdowns.
Coleman had 14 carries for 90 yards and one touchdown.
McMillan had eight receptions for 116 yards and one touchdown.
Arizona plays at Arizona State (3-8, 2-6 Pac 12) next Saturday.
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com writer Kevin Murphy was born and raised in Tucson, and has followed Arizona Wildcats athletics since childhood. Murphy is a journalist product manager with the Green Valley News & the Sahuarita Sun. He has a bachelor’s degree from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at ASU.