There was a celebration on the field, then one in the locker room that included a broken light and lots of game balls. The party then moved to Jedd Fisch’s home, where Tucson Mexican food institution El Charro catered a gathering so big the Arizona coach joked he didn’t know many of the people that were there.
All of that was on Saturday. By Sunday, it was back to being a program trying to build something beyond just getting its first win in more than two years.
And atoning for mistakes made during the 10-3 win over Cal, starting with penalty punishment.
“The first thing we did was put them on the line and ran for penalties,” Fisch said Monday. “Then we put the coaches on the line and ran for penalties. Coaches ran and players ran, and then we went right to individual and tried to figure out a way to get better. We have to find a way to get better every single day to be ready for this Utah team on Saturday.”
No longer a national joke—or as big of one—after ending a 20-game losing streak, Arizona enters the final three games of the season with one less goal but still plenty to achieve.
“I just told our team, ‘so what, now what?’,” Fisch said. “Okay, it’s over at this point. We have signs all over our building, ‘So what now?’ Pretty good improvement, I would say from, let’s call it early this season, or a year ago, and a way away away from where we want to be in the future.”
Arizona, which is a huge underdog for its home finale against Utah, finishes the year facing teams that are a combined 17-10 overall and 13-5 in Pac-12 play and all have a lot to play for. The Utes (6-3, 5-1) can clinch the Pac-12 South Division with a win and an ASU loss, while Washington State (5-4, 4-2) needs one victory to become bowl-eligible despite all the chaos surrounding the program thanks to now-former head coach Nick Rolovich. And ASU (6-3, 4-2) will have no interest in showing any pity for the, well, you know.
It’s a very tough closing stretch, for sure. But Fisch thinks it won’t be nearly as arduous now that Arizona won’t be entering it on the nation’s longest losing streak.
“We’ve been playing two teams every week this season,” he said. “We’ve been playing a streak and we’ve been playing the team we play, and the fact that that cloud is is past us, now we can just go out there and just play each opponent one at a time.”
As for who might be available for Utah, Fisch expects to have everyone who got hurt against Cal to play this weekend. Quarterback Will Plummer, who suffered shoulder and hand injuries, did now throw during Sunday’s practice and with the team not set to hit the field again until Tuesday he’ll have extra time to rest before getting back into action.
And offensive lineman Donovan Laie, who missed the Cal game—the first game of his career he hasn’t played in, snapping a streak of 37 consecutive starts—should also be back assuming he makes it out of concussion protocols that have been in place since getting hurt against USC.