PULLMAN, Wash. (AP) — This time, No. 15 Arizona got started early.
The Wildcats, plagued recently by slow starts, scored 24 straight points in the first quarter and beat Washington State 59-37 on Saturday.
“I’m very proud of my team, how we came out today,” said Arizona quarterback Anu Solomon, who threw five touchdown passes. “We’ve been lacking with that the past few games.’
The freshman was 26 of 38 for 294 yards without an interception. Terris Jones-Grigsby added 107 yards rushing for Arizona (6-1, 3-1), which was coming off an off week after losing to Southern California.
“All last week we challenged ourselves and asked ourselves if we could bounce back,” Solomon said.
“I thought our guys handled everything really maturely,” said Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez. “The defense made some plays, special teams was huge, and offensively in both the first quarter and the third quarter, we executed pretty well coming out of the gates.”
Washington State (2-6, 1-4), also off last week, lost its third straight game.
“We didn’t come out and play physical like we should have,” said Cougars receiver Vince Mayle, who caught 14 passes for 145 yards and a touchdown. “We weren’t ready.”
Washington State’s Connor Halliday, the nation’s leading passer, completed 56 of 79 passes for 489 yards, with four touchdowns and two interceptions, and became the leading career passer in school history. Isiah Myers caught two touchdown passes for the Cougars.
Washington State gave up 60 points in a loss to California and 59 points to Arizona in its past two home games.
Arizona scored 24 straight points in the first quarter, including two touchdowns by DaVonte Neal, to win for the fourth consecutive time in Martin Stadium.
“We dug a huge hole early and played tight the whole first quarter,” Washington State coach Mike Leach said.
Washington State went three-and-out on its first possession and punted. Neal returned the punt 81 yards for a touchdown, continuing a season-long trend of special-team failures for the Cougars. Arizona drove 84 yards on its next possession, but had to settle for Casey Skowron’s 31-yard field goal and a 10-0 lead.
Neal caught a 2-yard touchdown pass from Solomon to cap an 80-yard drive on Arizona’s next possession for a 17-0 lead with 3:55 left in the first quarter.
Washington State, desperate to generate some offense, turned the ball over on downs on its own 34 on the next possession. Nate Phillips caught a 21-yard touchdown pass from Solomon for a 24-0 lead with 1:11 left in the first quarter. Solomon completed 15 of 19 passes for 169 yards in the first quarter.
Cayleb Jones caught a 3-yard touchdown pass from Solomon, on fourth-and-goal, as Arizona took a 31-0 lead midway through the second quarter.
“We really don’t look at the scoreboard,” Mayle said.
Washington State finally got on the scoreboard when Halliday hit Myers with a 37-yard touchdown pass with 6:36 left in the first half. The play also allowed Halliday to break Alex Brink’s school career passing yards record of 10,913. Halliday finished the game with 11,264.
Halliday fired an 18-yard scoring pass to Myers, completing a 90-yard drive, with 1:51 left in the first half. The conversion kick failed.
Arizona fumbled away the ensuing kickoff and Cyrus Coen recovered to give WSU the ball on Arizona’s 17. The Cougars couldn’t move the ball and settled for Quentin Breshears’ 40-yard field goal to cut Arizona’s lead to 31-16 at halftime.
Nick Wilson ran over from the 2 on the opening drive of the second half to lift Arizona to a 38-16 lead.
Austin Hill caught a 14-yard touchdown pass and Trey Griffey caught a 13-yarder from Solomon later in the third for a 52-16 lead.
Gerard Wicks scored on a short run and Vince Mayle and Tyler Baker caught touchdown passes in the fourth quarter for Washington State.
Arizona’s Cayleb Jones added a kickoff return for a touchdown late in the game
Washington State won in Tucson last season, a key victory as the Cougars went to a bowl game for the first time in a decade. This was Arizona’s first visit to Pullman since 2010.
The Cougars lead the nation in passing with 490 yards per game behind Halliday, who broke the NCAA single-game record by throwing for 734 yards against California two weeks ago. The Wildcats lead the Pac-12 and are fourth nationally with 557 yards of offense per game.
Arizona had played five straight games that were decided by a touchdown or less.
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