Arizona Football

Irby on Arizona football: ‘We just tried to leave it better than we found it’

For the University of Arizona football team, it was about “defending every blade of grass” as Martell Irby put it, when it came to Thursday night’s 38-24 win over Oklahoma in the Alamo Bowl.

Every down.

And gaining every yard possible.

Arizona did just that in the final quarter of its monumental win, one of that capped off a 10-win season for only the fourth time in school history.


Who would have thought this season would have come to that? Not me. Not many. But there the Wildcats were, stunning its way to a 10-3 season just two seasons removed from an 1-11 season.

In a recent interview, Michael Wiley, called it a “**** show” when he first arrived under former coach Kevin Sumlin.

What a show it’s turned into under the Pied Piper with a visor in Jedd Fisch.

It’s the first time a Pac-12 school/program had gone from a one-win season to a 10-win season in just two seasons.

Fisch & Co., did that.

“We just tried to leave it better than we found it,” said Martell Irby, one of the many stars of Thursday night’s come-from-behind win on the postgame show. “Not only the players, but the coaches, the family, the community, the university … I feel like I’m blessed to be a part of this chapter of Arizona football.”

What a chapter it was. What a game it was. Arizona dominated the first quarter in what looked like a possible blowout. Oklahoma came back in the second quarter to take a halftime lead, 14-13. It continued its edge in the third quarter to move to 24-13. Then Arizona found another gear as it always has this season (more later).

“Two years ago we started this journey … we went 1-11, and everybody believed in what we were trying to get done,” Fisch told reporters in San Antonio. “For this team, the amount of players we have that joined us while we were going through the adversity, for them to be able to experience this now is pretty amazing.”

Amazing, indeed.

A seven-game win streak, five of the wins coming against ranked teams. Some of the games never in doubt. Thursday, it was … then it wasn’t. Arizona dominated the fourth quarter like it always had. Entering the game, Arizona had outscored its opponents 128-53 in the pivotal fourth. Thursday, it went 17-0 to seal the win.

A huge play by Gunner Maldanado – 87-yard TD return – sparked the rally, to make it 24-19. It came when Oklahoma was heading to make it 31-13 … then didn’t.

“The guys just kept competing,” Fisch said. “I really believe our strength staff does an amazing job of making an emphasis of the fourth quarter is when we win games. We made the play on defense, then Noah (Fifita) made an unbelievable play on the 2-point play to Montana (Lemonious-Craig) to make it 24-21, and at the time I think the springboard occurred and I think Irby made an incredible pick to (let us) kick a field goal to tie the game up, and then those two touchdowns in the fourth quarter were fun to be a part of.”

Again, it was that fourth quarter – the winning quarter all season that made it all a reality. But it was also more than Maldanado, Dalton Johnson, Fifita, Tetairora McMIllan, Michael Wiley, et. al. It was everyone.

The team, the team, the team – to borrow a phrase from the late Dick Tomey.

Strength in numbers.

“Finishing is the most important thing you can do,” Fisch said. “You don’t win the game in the first quarter, and you don’t win the game in the second quarter, and you don’t win the game in the third quarter. If you learn that and you believe that, then these guys go out there and they don’t flinch. They know that the fourth quarter is going to be the time that they’ve got to be at their best.”

Right time, right moment.

“It’s really everything you could have ever asked for,” Fisch said on his postgame show. “Beating a great Oklahoma team … pretty amazing night.”

Pretty amazing season, one which could maybe see Arizona finish in the top 10 when the final poll comes out. Again, amazing.

“How awesome is that,” Fisch asked. “If you were part of this program four years ago and you were told you’re going to finish in the top 10 if you stay your whole four years, I’m not sure you would have bought that one.”

Right now, it’s a buyer’s market in the Arizona football market.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
To Top