TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — Jedd Fisch began his rebuild with enthusiasm and a vision for the future, pushing Arizona through a difficult first season.
The second season saw the Wildcats take significant strides, on the recruiting trail and the football field.
The culmination of Fisch's reconstruction project — at least so far — took place on a perfect afternoon in the desert with the ideal ending: a long-awaited rivalry win.
Michael Wiley ran for 214 yards and three touchdowns, and Arizona beat Arizona State 38-35 on Friday to end a five-game losing streak in the Territorial Cup rivalry.
“We have all these young guys who are all just going to get better,” Fisch said. “And if we continue to get better, then the build should never end — it’s an infinite game.”
The Wildcats (5-7, 3-6 Pac-12) twice led by 10 points and let Arizona State back in it both times in a wild game that featured 1,018 combined yards.
Wiley was Arizona's workhorse, finishing with the second-most rushing yards in Territorial Cup history behind Trung Candidate's 288 for Arizona in 1998.
The Wildcats ran for 280 yards to offset a rare quiet passing day by Jayden de Laura, capping a turnaround season after going 1-11 a year ago.
“The emotions of the past few years and the results that we had, this one feels good,” Wiley said.
Trenton Bourguet threw for 376 yards and three touchdowns for Arizona State (3-9, 2-7) in Shaun Aguano’s final game as interim coach. The Sun Devils got the ball back at their own 28-yard line with 1:33 left, but Bourguet threw his second interception after being hit.
The turnover was Arizona State's fifth, crushing its Territorial Cup hopes.
“For all the Sun Devils out there, this cup means so much, it means so much to those guys in the locker room and so much for me,” Aguano said. “I just want to apologize for not keeping it.”
The Sun Devils rallied from some early miscues to lead 14-10 at halftime.
Neither team could stop the other in the second half, combining for five touchdowns and 429 yards in the third quarter alone.
Giovanni Sanders caught a 9-yard touchdown pass from Bourguet to put Arizona State up 21-17. Wiley scored on runs of 12 and 72 yards to make it 31-21 Arizona.
Xazavian Halladay scored on a 1-yard run after Jalin Conyers caught a 27-yard pass between two defenders, then Conyers scored on a wide-open 4-yard pass to put Arizona State up 35-31.
DJ Williams answered with a 6-yard score to put Arizona back up and the Wildcats got the ball back on a strip sack of Bourguet with 3:17 left.
Arizona State had one last chance after stopping the Wildcats on fourth down, but Isaiah Taylor made a diving interception after Jacob Manu hit Bourguet's arm.
A melee between multiple players ensued, but the play stood, ending Arizona State's bid for the longest Territorial Cup winning streak since 1965-73.
“They were bringing a corner blitz and I kind of liked it because we know we’re gonna have a one-on-one matchup,” Bourguet said. “I just didn’t have time.”
With that one play, it was finally Arizona's time to hoist the Territorial Cup again.
Arizona State racked up 537 total yards but couldn't overcome five turnovers nor stop the Wildcats' offense to close out a roller coaster season.
Arizona ended its second season under coach Jedd Fisch by finally winning the game on the schedule that matters most in Tucson.
Aguano became emotional talking about his team after the game, all but conceding he will not be named the permanent coach.
Aguano did a solid job and is well respected, both within the program and the community, but the Sun Devils didn't have the results on the field.
“I’m a pretty smart guy in regards to, you know, we didn’t get the job done and it’s a winning business — I get it,” Aguano said. “And I’m so good because I took care of those things.”
Arizona State: The top offseason priority will be to hire a new full-time head coach. Arizona State may look to make a big-splash hire after its experiment with former NFL coach and TV analyst Herm Edwards flamed out.
Arizona: The Wildcats will likely have several key players back next season, including de Laura, Wiley, WRs Jacob Cowing and Tetairoa McMillan and S Jaxson Turner.
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