Update: The Arizona Wildcats won their game against Utah 34-24 in their first win on the road this season.
SALT LAKE CITY — The Arizona Wildcats traveled to the base of the Wasatch Mountains for the 18th time in their football history on Saturday.
Only this time, it wasn’t for an early-fall friendly against a nonconference foe.
Arizona’s newest Pac-12 foe packs some punch.
Quarterback Travis Wilson found DeVonte Christopher for a 36-yard touchdown late in the third quarter, breaking a tie and giving the Utes a 24-17 lead in the teams’ first Pac-12 pairing in Utah.
The Utes are playing for their season. The team must win out to extend its formidable bowl game streak. The Wildcats, who became bowl-eligible with last week’s win over Colorado, would be wise to improve their postseason standing. The team will wrap up its regular season against Arizona State next week.
The Wildcats had opportunities to put the hosts away early, but fumbled them away. A pair of muffed exchanges, including one on Utah’s 8-yard line, kept the UA from two scoring opportunities. The Utes turned a fake field goal into a touchdown when Coleman Petersen scampered untouched into the end zone. Arizona forced a Utah fumble in the third quarter, but was unable to pounce on the ball and the Utes recovered. Minutes later, Petersen — yep, him again — booted a 24-yard field goal that tied the game.
The UA offense came to life in the second quarter, as if on cue. But old demons reappeared too, putting a wrench in a pretty positive performance.
Scott and tailback Ka’Deem Carey fumbled an exchange on the Utes’ 8-yard line with 42 seconds remaining before halftime, wasting a key scoring opportunity. The Wildcats led the Utes17-14 at halftime.
The turnover was Arizona’s second of the game, and the third muffed exchange in the last six quarters. Arizona has otherwise outclassed their hosts, outgaining them 301 yards to 215. Scott, playing for the first time since suffering a concussion two weeks go, has completed 8 of 18 passes for 103 yards and has rushed seven times for 58 yards and a score.
But Arizona’s defense has struggled, again. Travis Wilson’s 32-yard pass to Jake Murphy late in the second quarter cut Arizona’s lead to 3 points. Murphy, the son of former major-leaguer Dale Murphy, ran alone down the field on a play-action pass and walked into the end zone.
Arizona’s 14-point second quarter came after a sloppy start.
John Bonano hit a 44-yard field goal with 2 minutes 21 seconds remaining in the first quarter to give the UA a 3-0 lead.