PALO ALTO, CA – Once again overcoming a slow start, Arizona Football (3-1, 1-0) weathered injuries and rallied late to beat Stanford (1-3, 0-1) 21-20.
Entering Saturday’s action looking to start conference play in a big way, unfortunately, the Wildcats’ game against Stanford certainly left much to be desired even though Arizona Football escaped with a 21-20 win.
Despite gaining 349 yards of offense and rushing for 145 yards and two touchdowns on the ground, the Wildcats were plagued by yet another agonizingly slow offensive start.
And for a program where wins have been hard to come by the last 4-to 5 years, learning to win ugly is major progress. And boy, was this one a stinker!
Starting slow much like its previous games this season, the first three drives for Arizona went like this, punt, punt, and turnover on downs.
Luckily, the Wildcats would only trail 3-0 after the first quarter of play.
But as we’ve seen this year so far, Arizona is quite the second-quarter/second-half team. And in true Wildcat fashion, Arizona opened the second quarter on a beautiful, three-play, 67-yard drive that ended in a Jayden de Laura to Tanner McLachlan touchdown.
Unfortunately, a few possessions later, the Cardinal would respond, driving 50 yards in 10 plays that ended in a touchdown to make it 10-7 Stanford.
Neither team would be able to capitalize at the end of the half, leaving Arizona trailing to lowly Stanford.
Trailing 10-7 at halftime, Arizona Football would need to clean up a lot of their mistakes in the second half if they hoped to pull away in this one.
Giving Stanford the ball to start the half, the Cardinal would go three-and-out setting up Arizona to go on an 11-play, 66-yard drive that ended with a seven-yard touchdown run from de Laura on an RPO quarterback keeper that left him untouched.
Unfortunately, Arizona’s offense would stall again, allowing Stanford to come back into this one after they drove 75 yards in 11 plays to make it 17-14.
Entering the fourth quarter trailing to the Cardinal, the Wildcats were in real trouble of letting this one slip away.
Then the unexpected happened, de Laura went down with what looked like an apparent ankle injury, opening the door for backup quarterback Noah Fifita to finally play some meaningful minutes.
Desperately needing a rally, Fifita answered. Cool, calm, and collected, the redshirt freshman took great command of the offense, driving 67 yards on nine plays that ended in a DJ Williams touchdown run that put the Wildcats up for good.
Granted, Stanford would respond with a field goal, but after an unsuccessful onside kick, the Wildcats were able to run out the clock, escaping Northern California with a much-needed conference win!
With the win, the Wildcats improve to 3-1 (1-0) on the year and will turn its focus to Washington. The Huskies are currently a Top 10 team, and will present a significant challenge to the Wildcats!