Arizona has reclaimed the Territorial Cup, beating ASU for the first time since 2017 to cap a season in which it quintupled its win total from a year ago.
“It was a great feeling in that locker room,” UA coach Jedd Fisch said after the 38-35 victory, which gave the Wildcats a 5-7 record after going 1-11 in 2021. “Our players deserve that victory and have earned it from how hard they’ve worked.”
Our full recap can be found here. Below is what Fisch, quarterback Jayden de Laura, running back Michael Wiley, defensive end Jalen Harris and linebacker Jerry Roberts had to say afterward.
Fisch on Arizona’s offense: “I think our offense certainly showed the ability to move up and down the field. And that was fun. We had 51 plays on offense and 480 yards. A bunch of explosive plays.”
On the keys to victory: “Really, in the end, we felt like we were going to run to win, and we were going to get takeaways on defense, and that’s what we did.
On de Laura taking a backseat to the run game: “I’m so proud of our whole team. Proud of Jayden handling that. When you’re one of the best, if not the best quarterback in the country, and you get told you’re gonna throw the ball 20 times or 23 times in a rivalry game. I thought he handled it masterfully up there, got us all in the right checks. Got the run game where we wanted it to go, running at the shade, running at the three technique, whatever we asked for. In the end, credit to our players, players win.”
On how the Territorial Cup got to him afterward: “I’m trying to figure it out, I thought we had it all locked in, we had all these protocols in place. But your best laid plans doesn’t always work out, I guess. It was supposed to come to me to the captains, to Jalen Harris, and then we were gonna pass it from there. But then all of a sudden it was mayhem, and I didn’t see the Cup until I got in the locker room. Got a picture with my guys with the cup, which was awesome. And then to be able to pass the cup around to the whole team.”
On the fans storming the field: “Great. A lot better than last year’s storm. Last year’s storm was was nice because we broke a 20-game losing streak, but building a program to where we want it to be was a lot better swarm. The goal is that better storms. That crowd today I thought was excellent. I thought we had a really, really good drought. But let’s sell out next (time). Just sell out and see what that’s gonna look like. I think it’s gonna be a lot of fun. We have our whole offense back, which I’m excited about, and the opportunity to really become really good.”
On Michael Wiley’s 72-yard TD run: “At practice I told him, hey, if we hit this (play), this could be a 75-yard run, can you handle that? He said yeah. I wasn’t actually expecting that. It was a 72-yard run, and it was one heck of a run.”
On how Arizona found LB Jacob Manu: “First, T-Mac kept talking about him. So every time I talked to T-Mac and Noah (Fifita) and Keyan (Burnett) they kept saying hey now, we got a linebacker here, we got a linebacker here. And then I went and watched him play, I went to a Servite game. And he made like 10 or 11 tackles in their backfield. He caused a fumble, had an interception. And then I just offered him. I offered him that night, I called him up, because you’re not allowed to talk to him, so we called him up and I got on the phone with him I said hey, you want to be Wildcat, man? I said I’m trumping our staff on this one. I’m not checking with anyone. I’ve seen you play and we want you to be a Wildcat. And it was awesome that he agreed to it. I think it was great for T-Mac and for Noah and Keyan that one of their best friends was joining, and we’re happy to have Jacob Manu.”
On Manu’s play: “He’s relentless. We were talking about it the first couple of weeks of the season, when he was on our field for scout team. And Jayden would say like, hey, tell 59 to slow down. Like, we’re trying to get looks on our scout team and he’s ... just making incredible plays. Send him down to the (first-team) defense, which we ended up sending him down I think Week 2, and then he started against North Dakota State.”
On the play of all the young defenders: “It was great to see (Isaiah Taylor) get the pick at the end. It was great to see Isaiah Ward make plays. Deuce Lane, Deuce Davis, I think Deuce Davis had a great play in the game. It all runs together because there’s so many young players. Those are all true freshmen. And then you have the redshirt freshmen, which is IT and Dalton (Johnson). It feels to me like there’s just a lot of freshmen, true freshmen or redshirt freshmen running around the field.”
On ASU quarterback Trenton Bourguet: “He seemed pretty impressive, it seemed like they had a good plan in place. They completed a lot of balls. But, in the end, we took the ball away five times, which was the most important step for sure. And the win.”
On playing a game with 6 lead changes, 5 in the second half: “At halftime I told the guys, we were down 14-10 and I said, if we score on every possession, they’re not going to stop us. They’re not going to beat us. And we went down there we scored the first possession to go up 17-14, and then it was a back and forth game. I think we had one possession that we didn’t score on, but other than that, I felt like we had this mentality that it was gonna be a scoring fest. It’s kind of what it was beginning to look like in that second half, and we felt like it was our responsibility on offense to get in the end zone. And on defense it was to take the ball away, that that was the challenge at halftime and the players certainly accepted that.”
On the progress of the rebuild: “What it comes down to is this, that we really felt as if, when we got here that we were going to have to start at where it was, coming off of a game that it was in 2020, and build it from the ground up. And build it with players first and culture. And we felt that it was going to take time, and we didn’t know exactly where we were last year when we got here. We didn’t know exactly what the season was going to look like. The season ended, and we felt like going to the offseason, we had a chance to do some really special things. We brought some really good players in here and the players that stayed were committed to getting better.
“This season has been a good season, in terms of we’ve competed really well in a lot of games. We all have regrets, we all wish we won more games, but in this case right now, the build is still the build. The build isn’t changing. We’re still trying to get better. We want to get better, we want to bring in more better, more players, better players, and keep building off of what we did. Jayden is gonna get better. T-Mac’s gonna get better. Dorian (Singer) is gonna get better. Jonah (Coleman) is gonna get better defensively. Defensively, we have all these young guys, they’re all just gonna get better, and if we continue to get better, than the build should never end. It’s an infinite game, and that’s what we tell our team, that it is an infinite game and all we want to do is just continue to see how good we can be.”
De Laura on Wiley: “Mike Wiley, it’s kind of expected with all the hard work he put in throughout the year, especially with the O-line, how they were blocking up front, getting push on the D-line and just doing what is kind of expected from them every game. Mike Wiley is a heck of a player and we just expect great plays from him.”
On what the win means for the program: “I feel like this win means a lot, especially for older guys, all the trials and tribulations they’ve been through in their career here. And for the young guys, it just helps them to see that this is how it should be here. And this is what is kind of expected with our team that we have. So, it’s a good win going into this offseason, that’s kind of the first thing I told Coach Fisch when we came into the locker room.”
On if this was better than winning the Apple Cup with Washington State: “I’m probably not going to quote (Tom Brady) exactly, but I’m pretty sure it’s always the next one is the best one.”
On the gameplan not involving as much passing: “It’s good, whatever Coach asks for me. Go out there and just execute it. I have a lot of faith in our O-line and our running backs, whoever’s in the game. Just give them the ball and let them go to work. Get the ball in the playmakers’ hands.”
On the chippiness of the game: “It was kind of expected going into this game, just watching all the past games with Arizona and Arizona State, but it was kind of easy just kind of leaning on everybody, just keeping the main focus that we want to win and we can’t hurt ourselves.”
On playing in a back-and-forth game: “We just had to keep scoring, and sooner or later somebody was going to not score.”
Harris on what the win means to him: “I know for me, I’ve been here for a long time and I hadn’t won one. The last time they won was the year before I got here. It’s a big one for me, especially it being my last game.”
On Manu: “He’s very vocal, on the front he helps us make sure we’re lined up in the right spot. We’re grateful to have him.”
On stripping Bourguet in the fourth quarter: “I just came off the edge. I’d seen the tight end up lined up tight, he was in a 2-point stance, and I saw the tackle with his foot back and I could see it was a pass play, so I just got off the ball and ... hit his arm.”
Wiley on what the win means to him: “Just the emotions from the past few years and just the results that we had, this one feels great. Especially to win at home, get the Cup back here. And for the future it’s got to stay here.”
On rushing for 214 yards and 3 touchdowns: “It wasn’t just me. It was my O-line and the receivers blocking downfield, they played a hell of a game. Every time I hit a big run, it’s not just me out there.”
On cramping in the 4th quarter: “Luckily, Jonah and DJ, they stepped up. Proud of those guys, so glad to have them in my corner. Those are my guys. I love them.”
Roberts on being in the middle of a field storm: “We love it. We like it. It’s a little chaotic, but it’s a fun time.”
On Manu: “He worked his butt off, and he started off scout team. Coach Nansen gave him a shot ... and he’s just a dog.”
On Bourguet throwing for 376 yards and 3 TDs: “It was kind of just us shooting ourselves in the foot. He was nothing special, it was completely us.”
On the emotions of the game: “We knew tensions were going to be high, it was a rivalry game. We had a lot of dumb penalties.”