Noah Fifita led the comeback after Jayden Di Lora was injured
Ugly victories are better than beautiful losses.
Arizona won the game it tried to lose, beating Stanford 21-20 on Saturday night in Palo Alto, California.
The Wildcats (3-1, 1-0) won their Pac-12 opener for the first time since 2019, ending a 6-game skid against the Cardinal and taking the lead in Palo Alto for the first time since 2006. And they did so with a fourth-quarter comeback led by Backup quarterback and third-string running back.
DJ Williams The 2-yard touchdown run with 7:42 remaining was the game-winner, and it came with Noah Fifita At quarterback. Fifita entered the game next Jayden de laura Appearing to have sprained his right ankle, the sophomore was 4-for-4 for 47 yards and had two carries for nine yards on his final two drives.
Fifita completed a third down pass to Jacob Koenig With under three minutes remaining, Williams gained eight yards on the ground and slid in with under 1:40 remaining to seal the victory.
Williams had 39 yards on 11 carries, his most since the 2022 season opener at San Diego State. He and Jonah Coleman (12 carries, 75 yards) Nicely stocked for seniors Michael Wileywho had two in the first quarter before limping off the court and not returning.
De Laura was 14 of 26 for 157 yards and a TD, adding a rushing score, but looked out of sorts almost the entire game. He was seen wearing a protective boot on his right foot after the match.
Arizona was outscored 358-349 but did not turn the ball over for the first time since its upset win last November over UCLA. The Wildcat defense recorded five sacks, most since November 2018.
Down 10-7 at halftime, Arizona forced a punt and then took the lead on a 7-yard run from De Laura with 5:53 remaining in the third period. The Wildcats converted a near fourth-and-1 midfield to keep the drive alive, then De Laura didn’t touch the score after selling an RPO handoff and holding.
Stanford Cedric Irvine He scored from less than a yard out to put it back up 17-14 with 1:49 remaining in the third period. Drive was maintained by a pair of latches at third and long, both for safety-guarded receivers Gunner Maldonado.
De Laura was hit at the end of the next drive, a 3-out that saw him go down the sideline after having to throw it away. After Arizona got the ball back, after missing another long field goal attempt, it was Fifita who had up until this point seen nothing but a bad time in his career.
Fifita completed both passes on the ensuing drive, including an 18-yarder to Tanner McLachlan To get the Wildcats into the red zone. A few plays later, Williams bombed it in from two yards out to give Arizona a 21-17 lead with 7:42 remaining.
Stanford cut the lead to 21-20 with 3:09 to go on a 46-yard field goal, and had to settle after Jacob Manu A sack and a penalty for throwing a QB across the line of scrimmage to stop a drive that reached the UA 21. The Cardinals were 2 of 4 on field goals, after the kick Joshua Carty He made 25 consecutive attempts to get into the game.
Arizona had another slow start, as its three possessions in the first quarter led to a 3-and-out, an extra-zone punt and a turnover on downs. However, the Wildcats trailed just 3-0 after 15 minutes despite giving up a 45-yard missed run on third down on Stanford’s first drive and consecutive 25-yard catches on its third drive.
UA’s defense collapsed at the end of the possession, forcing field goal attempts. The Cardinal connected on a 35-yard run for a 3-0 lead with 10:35 remaining in the first quarter but missed a 51-yarder on the final play of the first quarter.
The Wildcats have managed just seven points on 11 first-quarter possessions this season. But as they have done in every game in 2023, they scored their first possession of the ball in the second half.
Three consecutive passes, all for double-digit yardage to different receivers, culminated in a 36-yard TD run by McLachlan to put UA up 7-3 with 13:37 remaining in the first half.
Stanford regained the lead with 5:44 left in the first half on a 2-yard run Bryce Farrellthe result is supported by a pass interference call Takario Davis On the previous play when he intercepted the ball in the end zone.
Arizona returns home to host No. 8 Washington next Saturday.
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