With all that was riding on Saturday’s matchup against Washington State, both tangibly and emotionally, it felt like the result would go one of two ways: really good or really bad.
For the Wildcats, and Jayden de Laura specifically, it was very much the latter.
De Laura threw four interceptions, including on three consecutive second-half drives with one of those picks getting returned for a touchdown, in Arizona’s 31-20 loss at Arizona Stadium.
The loss eliminates the UA (4-7, 2-6 Pac-12) from bowl consideration. It needed to win its final two games, including Friday’s Territorial Cup clash with ASU, to become bowl-eligible for the first time since 2017.
De Laura, who was Pac-12 Offensive Freshman of the Year last season with WSU, was 28 of 46 for 357 yards with a passing and rushing TD, both in the fourth quarter after the Wildcats were down 31-6. He scored on an 11-yard run and fired a 47-yard TD pass to Dorian Singer, who finished with nine catches for 176 yards.
Arizona failed to score in the first quarter for the first time this season—first time since last year’s loss at Washington State and failed to score a TD in the first half for the first time since the 2021 Territorial Cup. It turned the ball over on downs in Cougar territory twice in a row in the first period before settling for a pair of field goals in the second quarter.
Yet until late in the third quarter, the game still felt within reach.
Down 21-6 at the half, Arizona’s defense made back-to-back stops but the offense couldn’t take advantage. The Wildcats went 3-and-out on their first two possessions of the third quarter, then de Laura was picked off near midfield.
WSU’s Sam Lockett III returned the pick to the UA 19 and Watson appeared to have scored his third TD but he lost the ball as he was crossing the goal line. The play was reviewed and the Cougars got it at the half-yard line, but then a false start and two incompletions—one that Treydan Stukes picked up as if it were a fumble and returned for anon-TD—forced them to kick a 24-yard field goal.
Two players later it was 31-6, as WSU corner Derrick Langford Jr. brought back a pick 35 yards for a TD.
De Laura’s third interception, also hauled in by Lockett at the WSU 4-yard line late in the third, gave him more picks than he’d had in Arizona’s previous six games.
The Wildcats finally found the end zone with 10:41 left, with de Laura scoring on an 11-yard run. He connected with Singer with 1:16 to go, in part showing that this dustup between passer and receiver earlier in the game was water under the bridge.
WSU effortlessly moved down the field on the game’s opening drive, with quarterback Cameron Ward completing 6 of 8 passes for 55 yards including a 4-yard TD to Nakia Watson less than four minutes in. Ward was 25 of 36 for 193 yards and also ran for 59 yards (he entered with eight for the season) including a 17-yard TD to put the Cougars up 14-0 with 9:06 left in the first half.
Arizona got on the board with 6:38 left in the third on a 38-yard Tyler Loop field goal, getting in scoring range via a 47-yard reception by Tetairoa McMillan.
Watson’s second TD, a 2-yard run, put WSU up 21-3 with 1:27 left in the first half before Loop hit a 47-yard field goal with 30 seconds remaining.
Arizona wraps up the 2022 season Friday at home against ASU, hoping to win back the Territorial Cup for the first time since 2016.