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In a fog: Wildcats walloped at Washington State; Territorial Cup up next
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WASHINGTON STATE 44, ARIZONA 18

In a fog: Wildcats walloped at Washington State; Territorial Cup up next

Snow flurries fell during the first quarter of Arizona’s game against Washington State on Friday night at Gesa Field. It’s believed to be the first time the Wildcats have played in snow since 1977.

Most of the rest of the game felt frustratingly familiar.

Mistakes and breakdowns led to one of Arizona’s least-inspired performances of the season. The Wildcats fell to the Cougars 44-18 in chilly Pullman, Washington.

From late in the first half on, the game was played in a dense fog. The Cats seemed to be in a mental fog for much of the night.

Arizona was flagged 10 times for 60 yards. Seven of those infractions occurred in the first half. The Wildcats had only five penalties last week vs. Utah.

"I don't think we played well (or) coached well," UA coach Jedd Fisch said. "Clearly, we didn't execute the way we should have. We expect a lot more from some of our younger players. We didn't put them in the best position."

The loss was Arizona’s sixth in a row in the game preceding the season-ending Territorial Cup. Friday was the fourth time the Wildcats played that game in Washington or Oregon. The average margin in those games: 28 points.

Fisch didn't think focus, or lack thereof, was an issue.

"I don't think that was a question," he said. "I thought our focus was great. I thought there was no issue about anything other than the fact that we are what we are currently with our depth.

"I thought our guys played very hard. We have to make plays. We have to catch the football. We have to make the throws on offense when we have guys in windows. That wasn't where it normally is.

"We can't, on third-and-11, give up a 50-yard pass. We can’t give up 230 yards rushing (223 officially). We have to put them in better position calling plays. We can’t have a punt blocked for a safety right up the A-gap.

"So there's a lot of things that we need to do, that we need to be better (at). But I would not say that it had anything to do with their focus."

Arizona (1-10, 1-7 Pac-12) lost its second in a row after its breakthrough victory against Cal. WSU (6-5, 5-3) bounced back from a loss at Oregon to earn bowl eligibility.

The Wildcats struggled in several facets. Run defense was a particular problem, as the Cougars compiled a season-high total on the ground. Max Borghi, one of 14 Cougars honored on Senior Night, had 139 of those yards and two touchdowns.

Washington State turned a 21-7 halftime lead into a 37-7 advantage with a 16-0 burst in the third quarter. It started with Borghi’s second touchdown run and included the aforementioned safety.

Arizona quarterback Will Plummer drops to pass against Washington State during the first half of Friday’s game.

To their credit, the Wildcats never stopped battling. They drove for a field goal to make it 37-10 with 35 seconds left in the third quarter. A 27-yard touchdown pass from Will Plummer to Michael Wiley – plus a 2-point conversion pass from Plummer to Dorian Singer – made it 37-18 with 12:16 remaining.

The Cougars delivered the dagger three series later. Jayden de Laura threw a 78-yard touchdown pass to Calvin Jackson Jr. to bump the lead to 44-18 with 8:37 to play.

De Laura completed 13 of 22 passes for 259 yards and four touchdowns. Plummer finished 24 of 42 for 222 yards with two TDs and one interception.

WSU, which operates a version of the run-and-shoot offense, did more running than shooting in the first quarter. The Cougars had 61 yards rushing and only 13 passing. Twenty-six of those rushing yards came on Borghi’s first touchdown run, which gave WSU a 7-0 lead with 7:11 left in the opening period.

WSU got the ball after a fourth-down failure. Arizona advanced to the WSU 45 on its opening drive. But Plummer’s sneak attempt on fourth-and-1 got stuffed for no gain.

Arizona linebacker Jerry Roberts is taken off the field with a leg injury during the first half of Friday’s game.

The Cougars expanded their lead to 14-0 late in the second quarter. De Laura hooked up twice with Travell Harris for gains of 32 and 8 yards. The second pass went for a touchdown. Harris beat safety Jaydin Young in one-on-one coverage both times.

Arizona desperately needed a spark at that point, and Drake Anderson provided it. His 71-yard run advanced the Wildcats into the red zone.

Arizona then faced another fourth-down situation – fourth-and-2 at the WSU 11. Fisch called a play-action pass. After finding no one open to the right, Plummer came back to his left. Plummer threw a jump ball to Boobie Curry, who defeated Chau Smith-Wade for the score to make it 14-7.

It didn’t take long for the Cougars to re-establish a 14-point advantage. They needed only three plays to go 75 yards. De Laura connected with Jackson for a 43-yard TD. Young again was victimized on the play.

After Arizona's first touchdown, WSU scored 23 unanswered points.

After the game, Fisch was ready to turn his attention to his first Territorial Cup.

"That's where our focus will be starting now," he said.

Extra points

  • UA middle linebacker Jerry Roberts got injured on the first play from scrimmage when teammate Mo Diallo threw Borghi into Roberts’ left leg. Roberts had to be taken off the field on a cart. Veteran Dante Smith took his place. Fisch said Roberts will not be able to play vs. Arizona State.
  • Arizona played without starting guards Donovan Laie and Josh Donovan. Laie returned to the lineup last week after missing the Cal game because of a concussion. But he has continued to experience symptoms, forcing him to sit out this week. Donovan returned two weeks ago after missing three games because of a lower-leg injury. He was spotted on crutches after last week’s game.
  • Freshmen Josh Baker and JT Hand started at the guard spots. Baker, a second-year player, made his sixth start of the season. Hand, a true freshman, made the first start of his career. He had appeared in one game previously, playing 52 snaps vs. Cal.
  • Receiver Tayvian Cunningham, receiver/QB Jamarye Joiner and guard Matthew Stefanski Jr. also were out for Arizona. Joiner was expected to play vs. WSU. Fisch said his status for the finale is up in the air.
  • “Viper” Christian Young got banged up in the third quarter and did not return.
  • Fisch on reports that defensive coordinator Don Brown is the leading candidate for the head-coaching job at UMass: "I would just leave that to Don. We're just business as usual this coming week for Arizona State."

Contact sports reporter Michael Lev at 573-4148 or mlev@tucson.com. On Twitter @michaeljlev 


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