They did it.
The Arizona Wildcats won a conference game.
And not just any conference game, but the Duel in the Desert, and now the Territorial Cup will, once again, reside in Tucson.
UA took down the Arizona State Sun Devils by a score of 56-35 on Friday night, finishing the year with a 3-9 overall record, and 1-8 in conference.
Here are the main takeaways from an entertaining night in Tucson.
1. We don’t need no stinkin’ defense
I don’t care what anyone says, this game between two dreadful teams was fun. Why? Points. Lots and lots of points. Like, all the points. And that’s fun.
It was also fun because Arizona Stadium was actually pretty full and pretty loud throughout the game. Welcome back fun Arizona football, even if it was just for a late night the day after Thanksgiving.
2. Passing is overrated
Would you believe that Brandon Dawkins had only completed three passes by the time Arizona had 49 points? Well, you should believe it.
Heading into the game, everyone was talking up how bad ASU’s passing defense was, but it was their run defense that really let them down in this one.
ASU allowed the most rushing yards it has ever allowed in school history, and Arizona set a new mark for single-game rushing yards as well with the 511 yards gained on the ground. Samajie Grant had three rushing touchdowns to go with his 176 yards on 19 carries. Brandon Dawkins led the way in yardage, racking up 183 on 12 carries. He also scored twice. And Zach Green scored twice, and had 126 yards.
3. Seniors make big plays on Senior Night
For the first time in a long time, DaVonte’ Neal did something positive (an interception on an overthrow), and Nate Phillips had one of the few catches on the night, but it was a 64-yard TD grab early in the second quarter.
You also had Samajie Grant and his big night running the ball, and four of the team’s leading tacklers were all seniors (Paul Magloire Jr., Michael Barton, Tellas Jones, and Jake Matthews).
4. Leads are fun
When Arizona took the 7-0 lead on the third play from scrimmage, that was the first time the team had led since the Utah game...a month and a half ago. That’s outrageous to even think about, but once the Wildcats took the lead, you could kind of see the team’s self-esteem grow. It’s all about the small battles, and when you win that first small battle, the rest of them are a lot easier.
5. Football is mercifully over
2016 was one of the toughest seasons Arizona fans have gone through, and it is now complete. But it ends on a high note at least, which is something we can all live with. Now the real fun begins, and we see which players transfer, which coaches get the axe, and if all those recruits actually sign on the dotted line.
It was a bad year, but for one glorious night, it was good and fun again, and let’s not forget that.