Noah Fifita shines again as Arizona beats UCLA, clinching bowl
Nov 4, 2023, 11:05 PM | Updated: Nov 5, 2023, 7:34 am
(Photo by Christopher Hook/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
The Arizona Wildcats beat a ranked opponent for the third-straight week, 27-10, over the 19th-ranked UCLA Bruins.
With the win, Arizona clinches its first bowl appearance in the Jedd Fisch era and first since 2017.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Noah Fifita starred for the Wildcats yet again, finishing with 300 yards and three touchdowns, but his night started with an interception on his first drive.
The Arizona defense held strong, forcing the Bruins into a missed field goal unable to capitalize on the turnover, and the Wildcats used the momentum to score the game’s first points on the 11-play, 76-yard drive that followed.
UCLA had another field goal chance on their next drive, but Arizona defensive back Ephesians Prysock used his 6-foot-4 length to block the kick, keeping UCLA scoreless for the moment.
Fifita drove down the field again late in the first half, ending a seven-play, 61-yard drive with a nine-yard touchdown pass to Jacob Cowing. With only a minute-and-a-half left in the second quarter, UCLA responded, driving 75 yards to make the halftime score 14-7.
Three drives without a stop by either side later, Arizona led 24-10 with Fifita throwing to his high school teammate Tetairoa McMillan for the Wildcats’ third touchdown of the day.
Arizona sacked Ethan Garbers for a third and final time, knocking him out of the game with an apparent leg injury, bringing in heralded freshman Dante Moore for the Bruins, who was only able to finish a three-and-out.
The Wildcats were only able to get one first down before needing to punt, and UCLA blocked the punt, enacting a turnover on downs when Arizona recovered, giving the Bruins life.
Even with great field position, UCLA couldn’t get anything going, and they were flagged for two false starts before just a 5-yard gain on fourth-and-19.
Arizona running back Rayshon Luke took a screen pass 66 yards on the next play, and the Wildcats ran some clock before kicking a field goal to extend their lead to 27-10 with less than five minutes remaining.
UCLA tried quarterback Collin Schlee on its next possession, but he wasn’t able to do much against the Arizona defense either, giving it up on downs after seven plays. The strong performance of the defense held UCLA to just 271 total yards, nearly 200 below its season average.
Meanwhile, Arizona totaled 429 yards, 12 yards shy of its season average.