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Arizona football knocks off No. 11 Oregon State, moves closer to bowl eligibility

arizona-wildcats-football-osu-beavers-recap-final-score-updates-stats-pac12-2023-fifita Zachary BonDurant-USA TODAY Sports

Michael Wiley had the game of his life last season when Arizona reclaimed the Territorial Cup for the first time since 2016. On Saturday night, another stellar effort from Wiley got the Wildcats one step closer to being bowl eligible for the first time in his career.

Wiley caught two fourth-quarter touchdown passes from Noah Fifita, giving the UA a 27-24 win over No. 11 Oregon State at Arizona Stadium.

The senior had missed the last three games with an ankle injury suffered early at Stanford and did not start. But with the Wildcats (5-3, 3-2 Pac-12) trailing 17-13 he showed why he was the school’s career leader in receptions—and now receiving yards—by a running back.

Wiley had two carries for zero yards but five receptions for 58 yards, and now has nine career TD catches compared to 14 on the ground.

The UA knocked off a second consecutive ranked opponent, something it hadn’t done since 2014 when beating Utah and ASU in back-to-back weeks to clinch the Pac-12 South title. With four games to go, Arizona needs one more victory to be bowl eligible for the first time since 2017.

Fifita, who made his fourth straight start in place of Jayden de Laura, was 25 of 32 for 275 yards and three TDs with an interception. Jonah Coleman and DJ Williams each ran for over 50 yards, despite Arizona struggling on the ground much of the game, and Tetaira McMillan had eight catches for 80 yards and a TD.

Oregon State (6-2, 3-2) outgained the Wildcats 407-374, but after scoring a TD on its first possession didn’t find the end zone again until the fourth quarter. Beavers quarterback DJ Uiagalelei was 16 for 30 for 218 yards and two TDs while Pac-12 rushing leader Damien Martinez ran for 87 yards on 14 carries.

Tied at 10 at the half, Arizona got long receptions from Kevin Green Jr. and McMillan to get into the red zone but had to settle for a 25-yard Tyler Loop field goal to go up 13-10.

The Wildcats had a chance to go up two scores but punted for the first time late in the third quarter, setting up OSU’s go-ahead 80-yard drive early in the fourth. The Beavers went up 17-13 with 14:47 left on an 8-yard endaround run by Silas Bolden, the speedy receiver getting around the edge as Arizona went heavy with defensive linemen.

After the teams traded punts, Arizona started at the OSU 40 after Jacob Cowing’s best punt return of the season. Two plays later Wiley leaked out of the backfield for a short catch and tiptoed up the sideline for a 40-yard score and a 20-17 Wildcat lead with 8:46 remaining.

The UA forced the Beavers to punt after a 3-and-out, and a ground game that had struggled for three quarters took over. Jonah Coleman and DJ Williams combined for 40 yards on seven carries before Wiley scored on a 3-yard pass after lining up as a fullback to make it 27-17 with 2:22 left.

OSU quickly got within three on a 20-yard TD catch by Jimmy Valsin III with 1:38 remaining, but Arizona recovered the ensuing onside kick and then got one first down to ice the victory.

Oregon State marched down the field with ease to open the game, converting a trio of third down plays before Uiagalelei hit tight end Jack Velling on a 22-yard TD pass. That was the eighth score of the season for Velling, an OSU record for a tight end.

After Arizona’s first drive resulted in a career-long 51-yard field goal from Loop, the UA defense got gashed for a trio of big plays before Taylor Upshaw sacked Uiagalelei on the first play of the second quarter and the Beavers eventually punted.

The UA took its first lead on a 94-yard drive that began with Fifita rolling out in his own end zone to hit Malachi Riley on a 40-yard pass and ending with him hitting McMillan for a 7-yard TD catch and a 10-7 lead with 10:32 left in the first half.

OSU tied it at 10 on a 35-yard field goal with 5:13 left before halftime, getting into the red zone after gaining 52 yard on 3rd and 16.

Fifita was picked off near midfield with 1:47 left in the quarter, and OSU again got into the red zone but had to settle for another field goal try. This time, though, the Beavers faked the 34-yard try and kicker Atticus Sappington was tackled at the 7 by Gunner Maldonado as time expired.

It was the first time in 27 tries this season that OSU had failed to score in the red zone.

Arizona’s first chance to clinch bowl eligibility is next Saturday at home against No. 23 UCLA (6-2, 3-2). The Homecoming contest kicks off at 7:30 p.m. MST.