Arizona State shellacked by Noah Fifita, Arizona in 97th Territorial Cup
Nov 25, 2023, 5:30 PM | Updated: 10:00 pm
TEMPE — It was a miserable performance by Arizona State football on Saturday as the Sun Devils were blown out 59-23 by No. 16 Arizona in the 97th Territorial Cup.
Much like a week ago in the Sun Devils’ 49-13 loss to No. 6 Oregon, the defense could not stop its opponent in the first half. The Wildcats’ offense scored on all but one possession in the opening 30 minutes. ASU (3-9, 2-7 Pac-12) did not force the Wildcats (9-3, 7-3 Pac-12) to punt in the first two quarters as Arizona’s only scoreless possession was due to a missed field goal.
Arizona picked up chunk play after chunk play in the game, putting up 15 plays of over 15 yards. Twelve plays went for 20 yards or more.
Wildcats quarterback Noah Fifita and wide receiver Tetairoa McMillan torched the ASU defense. Fifita was 30-for-41 with 527 yards passing and four touchdowns while McMillan had 266 yards receiving and two touchdowns. Fifita broke the previous Territorial Cup passing yards record of 511, set by ASU’s Ryan Kealy on Nov. 27, 1998. McMillan broke the previous game record for receiving yards, which was 199 by ASU’s Gerell Robinson on Nov. 19, 2011.
“We couldn’t create a pass rush with four,” ASU head coach Kenny Dillingham said postgame. “And if you can’t create a pass rush with four and you play good wideouts, it’s hard.”
The game started decently for the Sun Devils. On Arizona’s opening drive, the Sun Devil defense held Arizona to a field goal. On offense, ASU’s first possession was a success. Using tight end Jalin Conyers and running back Cam Skattebo at quarterback, the Sun Devil offense marched down the field. A 39-yard run by Conyers out of a direct snap set up a four-yard touchdown run by Skattebo, also on a direct snap. ASU led 7-3 with 7:53 left in the first quarter.
The Sun Devils’ lead stood for less than four minutes as Arizona took over the game. The Wildcats scored 49 unanswered points, not allowing another ASU score until late in the third quarter.
Similarly to last week, when ASU outscored No. 6 Oregon 13-7 in the second half, the Sun Devils played a better second half on Saturday. The Sun Devils lost the second half points battle just 21-16, which brought them nowhere near returning the Territorial Cup to Tempe. The 59 points by the Wildcats were the most by Arizona in the rivalry since 1951, when the Wildcats beat ASU 61-14.
“We weren’t going to quit,” Conyers said. “… I don’t think it’s in anyone’s DNA on this team to give up and quit and just be done and lose as bad as U of A a couple years ago.”
Rashada up-and-down in first game since Sept. 9
Saturday’s game was the first appearance for lauded ASU freshman quarterback Jaden Rashada since Week 2 against Oklahoma State. The true freshman did not start, due to being late to a team meeting, but was the only Sun Devil quarterback to take snaps in the game.
Rashada’s first start back from injury was unsurprisingly a mixed bag. He had two interceptions, both on brutal reads. On a positive note, he made an excellent throw to Troy Omeire for a 31-yard touchdown in the second half. Despite playing in just the three games this season, Rashada finished the season as ASU’s passing touchdown leader, with four on the year.
“He made a great throw at the end there,” Dillingham said. “We didn’t have procedural penalties with a freshman in the game. He operated the offense fairly well. Were there a few things … that he’d like to have back? Of course. Every quarterback does.”