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Fifita throws for 527 yards, No. 16 Arizona blows out rival Arizona State 59-23

Arizona quarterback Noah Fifita (11) throws downfield against Arizona State in the first half during an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 25, 2023, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

Arizona quarterback Noah Fifita (11) throws downfield against Arizona State in the first half during an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 25, 2023, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

BY JOHN MARSHALL contributing

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — The nadir of Arizona’s downward spiral came in the form of a humiliating rivalry loss three years ago.

Losing 70-7 to Arizona State led to the firing of coach Kevin Sumlin, the hiring of Jedd Fisch and was the lynchpin of what would become a record 20-game losing streak. It even spawned a billboard that mocked the Wildcats every time they headed north up Interstate 10.

With an oh-so-sweet rivalry runaway, Arizona has reached the peak of Fisch’s rebuilding project — one that should continue to rise.

Noah Fifita threw for a school-record 527 yards and five touchdowns, Michael Wiley scored three times and No. 16 Arizona put an emphatic end to the Pac-12 era of the Territorial Cup rivalry with a 59-23 rout over Arizona State on Saturday.

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“There’s about 13 guys that were on the team in 2020 that are still remaining,” Fisch said. “To be able to have them walk out with a win like today was a great one.”

Following the 67-point win, Arizona State fans erected a billboard between Tempe and Tucson with “No pity for the kitty” bracketed by the score of the game. The sign is no longer there, but Fisch used a picture of it as motivation in the buildup to this year’s Territorial Cup.

The Wildcats (9-3, 7-2 Pac-12, No. 15 CFP) responded with the kind of performance that may induce Arizona to put up a billboard of its own in the final game before the rivals head to the Big 12 next year.

The Wildcats took no pity on the injury-riddled Sun Devils (3-9, 2-7), racking up 619 yards of offense. Tetairoa McMillan had a Territorial Cup-record 266 yards and a touchdown on 11 catches. Jacob Cowing had nine catches for 157 yards.

Fifita finished 30 of 41 to break Anu Solomon’s school record of 520 yards passing against California in 2014.

“I want to say I believed it from the jump but the grind, the way we were working on the offseason, it was beautiful,” Wiley said.

Arizona also intercepted Jaden Rashada twice — both set up touchdowns — to complete its first six-game winning streak since 1998.

Rashada threw for 82 yards on 10-of-22 passing in his first game since Sept. 9 and the Sun Devils sputtered offensively most of the afternoon — nowhere close to good enough the way the Wildcats were rolling.

“Even though it’s not fun to lose games like this, sometimes it’s needed,” Arizona State coach Kenny Dillingham said. “Sometimes you have to hit rock bottom to bounce back up.”

Arizona got some relief last season, ending Arizona State’s five-game Territorial Cup winning streak with a three-point home win. The Wildcats wanted even more in their return to Tempe and got it, hitting chunk plays in the passing game to set up short touchdowns while racing off to a 38-7 halftime lead.

Tanner McLachlan scored on a 3-yard, side-armed pass from Fifita. Jonah Coleman burst up the middle for a 4-yard touchdown. Wiley scored on runs of 22 and 1 yards.

All four touchdowns were set up by passing plays of 15 or more yards to McMillan or Cowing.

“Those are good wideouts and they got open,” Dillingham said.

Fifita had the most passing yards by an Arizona quarterback in Territorial Cup history by halftime, hitting the 357-yard mark on a 22-yard TD pass to Wiley, putting the Wildcats well on their way to a satisfying win.

MCLACHLAN’S RECORD

McLachlan caught seven passes for 60 yards and two touchdowns, earning a school record as he did it.

The senior now 76 catches, breaking Rob Gronkowski’s school record by a tight end of 75 set from 2007-08.

THE TAKEAWAY

Arizona State: The undermanned Sun Devils were no match for the surging Wildcats to cap their first season under Dillingham with an embarrassing loss.

Arizona: The Wildcats lost their bid to play Washington in the Pac-12 title game with No. 6 Oregon’s win over No. 15 Oregon State Friday night. A rout over their rival is a nice way to shake it off.

UP NEXT

Arizona: Will play in its first bowl game since 2017.

Arizona State: The Sun Devils will have several key players back next year, including Rashada, Skattebo and Conyers. Arizona State’s 2024 recruiting class is No. 55 nationally, according to the 247 Sports composite.

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