Arizona Wildcats quarterback Noah Fifita throws downfield against Oregon State. Mandatory Credit: Zachary BonDurant-USA TODAY Sports

Freshman QB, Arizona focus on ASU, still in Pac-12 hunt

Arizona continues to ride its surprising surge seeking a sixth consecutive victory when it plays the Territorial Cup rivalry game at Arizona State on Saturday in Tempe, Ariz.

The Wildcats (8-3, 6-2) haven’t won six in a row since they won their 2013 bowl game against Boston College and then ripped off five consecutive victories to begin the 2014 regular season.

Four victories in the current winning streak came against ranked teams, including last Saturday’s 42-18 victory against then-No. 22 Utah.

“Our guys, they play confidently,” said third-year Arizona coach Jedd Fisch, whose is making a run for national coach of the year honors after his team was picked to finish eighth in the conference in a preseason media poll.

The Sun Devils (3-8, 2-6) are coming off a 49-13 loss to Oregon, but they have posted conference wins over Washington State (38-27) and UCLA (17-7) in the past month.

This will be the first Arizona-ASU game for Kenny Dillingham as the Sun Devils’ head coach, although he has experience in the Territorial Cup as an assistant coach and student at ASU.

“I told our guys today, we’ve got to play with a passion and intensity and fire in our belly to go out there to win the football game,” Dillingham said in his Monday press conference. “But you also have to play with a poise and composure.”

Poise and composure describe the play of Arizona redshirt freshman quarterback Noah Fifita, who has started the past seven games, stepping in for an injured Jayden de Laura and not relinquishing the job.

Fifita has completed 187 of 254 passes for 1,988 yards, with 18 touchdowns and four interceptions. His passing efficiency rating of 159.6 is 15th nationally.

The Wildcats have plenty of skill around him including wide receivers Tetairoa McMillan (69 catches for 976 yards and nine TDs) and Jacob Cowing (74 for 539 and 10). Running back Jonah Coleman has 834 rushing yards and is averaging 7.1 per carry.

Arizona State has dealt with health issues at quarterback almost all season and there’s a chance Jaden Rashada could return from injury for the season finale. The freshman has played in only two games but still leads ASU in touchdown passes with three.

Otherwise, Trenton Bourguet figures to get the call again. He is 151 of 248 for 1,586 yards, one touchdown and four interceptions.

Bourguet threw for 376 yards against the Wildcats last season, but Arizona ended a five-game losing streak in the series with a 38-35 victory.

It’s a big turnaround from just a few years ago, when ASU humbled Arizona 70-7 in Tucson in 2020. Some ASU fans celebrated by purchasing space on a billboard along Interstate 10 between the schools, with the score of the game bookending the message: “No pity for the kitty.”

Although only a handful of players remain from that Arizona team, and the soon-to-be-fired Kevin Sumlin was still the coach, the loss still resonates with Arizona. Fisch was asked Monday about how he explains the heated rivalry to new players.

“I showed them a billboard,” he said.

By late Friday night, Arizona will know if it will be playing for a spot in the Pac-12 championship game against Washington. The door will be open if Oregon State wins at Oregon.

–Field Level Media

Mar 3, 2022; Tempe, Arizona, USA; Arizona State University athletic director Ray Anderson introduces ASU Women   s Basketball head coach Charli Turner Thorne at Desert Financial Arena.

Charli Turner Thorne Retirement

Arizona State athletic director Ray Anderson resigns

Arizona State athletic director Ray Anderson resigned effective immediately on Monday.

Anderson, 69, who has guided the Sun Devils’ athletic department since 2014, said now is the right time to bring in new leadership in Tempe.

“It has been a privilege to serve as ASU’s athletic director for nearly a decade,” he said. “We have entered an unprecedented era where the number and magnitude of changes in the college sports landscape are astounding.

“As I approach 70, these are not matters that my leadership would be able to corral during my tenure. Continuity of leadership will be needed, and I am choosing to step aside to let the university find that leader.”

Anderson worked as a sports agent and as an executive with the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons before being hired at Arizona State.

He oversaw the renovations to Sun Devil Stadium and the construction of Mullett Arena, home of the Sun Devils hockey, wrestling, gymnastics and volleyball programs and temporary home of the NHL’s Arizona Coyotes.

He also negotiated an apparel deal with Adidas and added four varsity sports: men’s hockey, women’s lacrosse, men’s tennis and triathlon.

“By prioritizing student success, raising unprecedented levels of resources and evolving the Sun Devil brand, Ray Anderson has been one of the most impactful and longest serving athletic directors in the history of Arizona State,” university president Michael Crow said. “We respect his decision, and we appreciate his service to the university.”

His tenure was not without criticism, most notably for the lack of success in the football program.

Arizona State announced before the current football season that it was self-imposing a bowl ban, hoping to reduce penalties from the NCAA probe into recruiting violations by former coach Herm Edwards.

Jim Rund will serve as interim athletic director while the university conducts its search.

The next athletic director will oversee the school’s transition from the Pac-12 to the Big 12.

–Field Level Media

Nov 11, 2023; Pasadena, California, USA;  UCLA Bruins tight end Moliki Matavao (88) leaps over Arizona State Sun Devils defensive back Shamari Simmons (7) after making a catch during the first half at the Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Alex Gallardo-USA TODAY Sports

Arizona State uses bag of tricks to upset UCLA

Cam Skattebo ran for a touchdown and threw for another, leading Arizona State to a 17-7 upset of UCLA Saturday night in Pasadena, Calif.

Skattebo played running back, quarterback and punter for the Sun Devils, whose head coach Kenny Dillingham pulled out a lot of stops, including position players at quarterback and taking penalties to run time off the clock deep in Arizona State territory. But the Sun Devils’ defense also shined, forcing four turnovers on downs for UCLA.

Arizona State won for the second time in three weeks and improved to 2-5 in the Pac-12 and 3-7 overall. The Bruins (3-4, 6-4) have fallen out of the Top 25 and have lost two straight.

The Sun Devils opened the game with tight end Jalin Conyers at quarterback and used five trick play or odd formation “swinging gate” plays on their offensive first series. They continued to run such plays throughout the game.

Trenton Bourguet, injured last week at Utah, led the offense at quarterback, and before the first quarter was over, Skattebo had taken shotgun snaps.

Colin Schlee got the start at quarterback for UCLA, with two quarterbacks who saw action last week, Ethan Garbers and Dante Moore, suited up but not playing.

The Sun Devils took a 3-0 lead in the second quarter after a UCLA fumble in Arizona State territory. Then the Bruins marched all the way to the Sun Devils’ 1-yard line, only to be turned away on fourth and goal.

The Bruins’ next possession got to the Arizona State 9-yard line, and again, the Sun Devil defense turned away UCLA on fourth-and-short.

In the third quarter, the visitors put together a 99-yard drive capped off by Skattebo’s 25-yard touchdown pass to Elijhah Badger on third-and-10 at the 1:59 mark. Skattebo sealed the win after UCLA responded with Logan Loya’s 16-yard touchdown catch from Schlee.

Skattebo raced 17 yards for a touchdown with 3:07 to play, and UCLA ran out of time.

–Field Level Media

Nov 4, 2023; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; Arizona State Sun Devils quarterback Jacob Conover (15) has pass deflected by Utah Utes defensive end Jonah Elliss (83) in the second quarter at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

No. 18 Utah steamrolls Arizona State, 55-3

Bryson Barnes completed a career-best four touchdown passes and Ja’Quinden Jackson rushed 13 times for 111 yards and a touchdown in No. 18 Utah’s 55-3 victory Saturday over Arizona State in Pac-12 play at Salt Lake City.

The 52-point victory is Utah’s largest in the Pac-12 since it joined the conference in 2011.

Barnes was 19 of 28 for 161 yards without an interception.

Jackson did not play most of the second half after suffering a leg injury.

Utah (7-2, 4-2 Pac-12) limited Arizona State (2-7, 1-5) to 83 yards of total offense while the Utes compiled 513.

The Sun Devils were relegated to their fourth-string quarterback, Jacob Conover, after starter Trenton Bourguet was forced to leave the game in the second half with a left ankle injury.

Arizona State also used running back Cameron Skattebo in the Wildcat formation often after halftime.

Bourguet was injured during the first drive of the game when he took a hit as he threw the ball.

Conover replaced him and his first six passes fell incomplete before Bourguet returned.

Bourguet played a series and then was kept out the rest of the game to avoid further injury.

Conover was 5 of 22 for 41 yards with an interception.

True freshman Jaden Rashada, deemed the starter out of fall camp, has been out since the second week of the season due an undisclosed injury. His backup Drew Pyne is also out because of a leg injury.

Utah, which had its 18-game home winning streak snapped last week by Oregon, scored touchdowns on its first two possessions of the game.

Barnes completed passes to Devaughn Vele of 11 and 3 yards to culminate each possession.

A 20-yard touchdown pass from Barnes to Munir McClain with 54 seconds left in the second quarter put Utah ahead 24-3 at halftime.

An interception thrown by Conover with 6:03 left in the third quarter led to Cole Becker’s second field goal of the game, a 43-yarder, to give Utah a 34-3 lead.
In the fourth quarter, Barnes completed his fourth touchdown pass, a 2-yard strike to Landen King, Nate Johnson scored on a 59-yard run and Charlie Vincent had a 22-yard scoring run.

–Field Level Media

Oct 21, 2023; Seattle, Washington, USA; Arizona State Sun Devils running back Cameron Skattebo (4) rushes for a touchdown against the Washington Huskies during the second quarter at Alaska Airlines Field at Husky Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Washington State, Arizona State move on from heartbreaks

Washington State and Arizona State are both coming off competitive losses last week on the road against two of the Pac-12’s best teams, Oregon and Washington, respectively.

The struggling teams will meet on Saturday in Tempe, Ariz.

The Cougars (4-3, 1-3 Pac-12) fell 38-24 to the then-No. 9 Ducks after trailing by only a touchdown until 3:56 remained in the third quarter.

The Sun Devils (1-6, 0-4) took the No. 5 Huskies down to the final minutes before succumbing 15-7.

Arizona State coach Kenny Dillingham’s program remains competitive despite being on a one-year, self-imposed bowl ban for alleged recruiting violations under previous coach Herm Edwards.

“We’re building the right culture here,” Dillingham said. “We can see how close we are in year one, through all of this, all the banged up, all the negative, we’re this close.”

Washington State and Arizona State have significant injury issues with linemen.

The Sun Devils are so thin on the offensive line, especially with their field-goal unit, that Dillingham put out a call to students to possibly join the team.

“I don’t know if there are big bodies at ASU who just go there that want to play (special teams) for us,” Dillingham said. “If you weigh 330 pounds, and I mean it, reach out to our team.”

The lack of healthy offensive linemen forced Dillingham to try a passing play on fourth-and-3 at the Washington 12-yard line instead of kicking a field goal to lengthen a 7-6 lead in the fourth quarter.

The ensuing play was an 89-yard interception return for a touchdown that put Washington ahead 12-7 with 8:11 to go.

Washington State will be without starting edge rushers Quinn Roff and Raam Stevenson for the Saturday game.

Cougars coach Jake Dickert said Roff is out after experiencing a “medical emergency” and that Stevenson is “nicked up.”

Dickert is leery of defending 5-foot-10, 225-pound Arizona State running back Cam Skattebo, who has rushed for 413 yards and six touchdowns on 104 carries.

“Skattebo is as physical as it gets — downhill,” Dickert said. “They’re physical, downhill, run behind their pads, and he’s getting everything extra, and you’re not going to bring them down just with one guy.”

–Field Level Media

Oct 21, 2023; Seattle, Washington, USA; Arizona State Sun Devils defensive tackle Dashaun Mallory (0) blocks a pass attempt by Washington Huskies quarterback Michael Penix Jr. (9) during the second quarter at Alaska Airlines Field at Husky Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

No. 5 Washington escapes upset thanks to pick-6, downs Arizona State

Mishael Powell returned an interception 89 yards for a go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter as No. 5 Washington sidestepped an upset bid with a 15-7 victory over Arizona State in Pac-12 action on Saturday night at Seattle.

Powell’s return was the lone touchdown of the contest for high-powered Washington (7-0, 4-0 Pac-12), which committed four turnovers. Heisman Trophy frontrunner Michael Penix Jr. struggled much of the game and was 27-of-42 passing for 275 yards and two interceptions, while Grady Gross kicked three field goals.

The Huskies’ winning streak is now at 14 games, the second-best active one behind top-ranked Georgia’s (24).

Cam Skattebo rushed for a touchdown and Trenton Bourguet completed 26 of 47 passes for 196 yards and the pivotal interception for the Sun Devils (1-6, 0-4), who dropped their sixth consecutive game.

Arizona State’s Shamari Simmons had an interception and fumble recovery while Ro Torrence also intercepted Penix and C.J. Fite recovered a fumble.

Dario Longhetto missed two field goals for the Sun Devils, who ran 23 more plays than Washington and outgained it 341-288.

Ja’Lynn Polk had nine receptions for 102 yards for the Huskies, who defeated Arizona State for just the third time in the past 15 meetings.

Gross booted a 47-yard field goal to bring the Huskies within 7-6 with 12:28 remaining in the contest.

Arizona State responded with an impressive drive and eventually faced fourth-and-3 at the Washington 12-yard line.

Partly due to the field-goal misses, the Sun Devils went for it, and Bourguet’s pass in the right flat was intercepted by Powell at the 11, and he returned it for the touchdown to give the Huskies a 12-7 lead with 8:11 remaining. A double-reverse pass on the two-point conversion failed.

The next time Washington got the ball, it drove 62 yards on eight plays to set up Gross’ 24-yard field goal with 3:17 remaining.

Arizona State’s final chance ended on Bourguet’s incompletion on fourth-and-15 from its own 48.

The Sun Devils led 7-3 when Longhetto lined up for a 43-yard field goal in the third quarter. Washington’s Elijah Jackson got his hand on the kick, and it landed short and wide to the left with 3:37 left in the period.

In the first quarter, Longhetto clanked a 31-yard field-goal attempt off the right upright.

Washington entered the contest third nationally in total offense (543.7 yards per game) and tied for fifth in scoring (44.3 points per game) but didn’t get on the scoreboard until Gross kicked a 24-yard field goal with 12 seconds left in the first half.

The Huskies committed three turnovers in the half — two on Penix interceptions and the other on a botched handoff between Penix and Dillon Johnson.

Arizona State scored a touchdown on Skattebo’s 1-yard run with 4:22 left in the first half.

–Field Level Media

Oct 7, 2023; Tempe, Arizona, USA; Arizona State Sun Devils wide receiver Andre Johnson (82) dives towards the goal line against the Colorado Buffaloes in the first half at Mountain America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Colorado beats Arizona St. on FG with 12 seconds left

Alejandro Mata made a 43-yard field goal with 12 seconds left to give Colorado a 27-24 victory Saturday over Arizona State at Tempe, Ariz.

The Buffaloes won their first Pac-12 game under coach Deion Sanders, father of quarterback Shedeur Sanders.

The younger Sanders led Colorado to the victory after Arizona State quarterback Trenton Bourguet completed a 15-yard pass to Troy Omeire to cap a 94-yard drive that tied the game at 24 with 50 seconds remaining.

Sanders completed passes of 43 and 7 yards to Javon Antonio to get Colorado to the Arizona State 25. Mata made the game-winning field goal two plays later.

Sanders overcame getting sacked five times to complete 26 of 42 pass attempts for 239 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions.

Prince Dorbah led Arizona State (1-5, 0-3 Pac-12) with 2.5 sacks.

Colorado (4-2, 1-2) was last in rushing in the Pac-12 entering the game at 83.2 yards a game. The Buffaloes finished with 56 yards rushing on 30 attempts against Arizona State.

Arizona State suffered its seventh straight Pac-12 game dating to last year. It is also the seventh straight loss to an FBS opponent for the Sun Devils.

Sanders’ 9-yard touchdown pass to Antonio, giving Colorado a 21-17 lead with 14:32 left in the fourth quarter, was the only touchdown-scoring possession for the Buffaloes in the second half.

Following the touchdown, Arizona State was forced to punt, and Xavier Weaver had a 51-yard return to the Sun Devil 25-yard line. Mata made a 42-yard field goal with 10:13 left to give Colorado a 24-17 lead.

Bourguet completed 7 of 12 passes for 77 yards in Arizona State’s 94-yard drive that tied the game at 24. He finished with 335 yards passing, completing 32 of 49 passes.

Elijhah Badger finished with 12 receptions for 134 yards for Arizona State.

Antonio had five receptions for a team-best 81 yards.

–Field Level Media

Sep 30, 2023; Boulder, Colorado, USA; Colorado Buffaloes quarterback Shedeur Sanders (2) attempts to scramble from USC Trojans defensive lineman Anthony Lucas (6) during the fourth quarter at Folsom Field. Mandatory Credit: John Leyba-USA TODAY Sports

Colorado faces ASU in matchup of skidding Pac-12 teams

Teams with first-year coaches who are on losing streaks will meet Saturday when Arizona State hosts Colorado in a Pac-12 Conference game in Tempe, Ariz.

The Sun Devils (1-4, 0-2) have lost four consecutive games under Kenny Dillingham, who is in his first year as a head coach after serving as offensive coordinator at Oregon, Florida State, Auburn and Memphis the previous five years.

The Buffaloes (3-2, 0-2) have dropped two straight under Deion Sanders, who was the coach at Jackson State for three years before coming to Colorado. The Buffaloes have lost to Oregon, 42-6, and USC, 48-41, to start the Pac-12 season, after reaching No. 19 in the AP poll.

The Buffaloes enter the Arizona State game with some momentum, however, as they cut USC’s lead to 48-41 with 1:43 remaining last week after trailing 34-7 in the second quarter.

“If you can’t see what’s coming with CU football, you’ve lost your mind,” Sanders said. “You’re just a flat-out hater. If you can’t see what’s going on and what’s going to transpire over the next several months, something’s wrong with you.”

His son, Shedeur Sanders, finished with 371 yards passing, completing 30 of 45 passes. He threw for four touchdowns and ran for one.

True freshman Omarion Miller had seven catches for 196 yards and a touchdown for the Buffaloes, who outgained the eighth-ranked Trojans 564-498.

Arizona State is coming off a 24-21 loss at Cal last week. The Sun Devils were only 2 of 15 in third-down conversions.

With Sun Devils quarterbacks Jaden Rashada and Drew Pyne out indefinitely with injuries, Trenton Bourguet played the entire game and completed 26 of 41 passes for 344 yards without a touchdown.

Arizona State was held to 68 yards rushing — 59 of them on 24 carries by Cameron Skattebo.

“When you can’t run the ball and hit explosive runs like that when you’re more consistent, you’ve got to find more explosives,” Dillingham said.

The coach said he became familiar with Shedeur Sanders when he was at Auburn and he recruited the quarterback out of high school.

“I was super impressed. Seeing him put it together in college doesn’t shock me. He’s an older version of what that 17-year-old was. Cerebral, smart, has great poise about himself.”

–Field Level Media

Sep 30, 2023; Berkeley, California, USA; Arizona State Sun Devils defensive back Demetries Ford (4) breaks up a pass intended for California Golden Bears wide receiver Jeremiah Hunter (3) during the first quarter at California Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Edwards-USA TODAY Sports

Cal pounds out 24-21 win over Arizona St.

Jaydn Ott rushed for 165 yards on 29 carries with a touchdown to lead host California to a 24-21 victory Saturday over Arizona State at Berkeley, Calif.

California (3-2, 1-1 Pac-12) outrushed the Sun Devils 196-68.

Trenton Bourguet, starting at quarterback for the second time this season for ASU, completed 26 of 41 passes for 344 yards with no touchdowns and an interception.

True freshman Jaden Rashada, named Arizona State’s starter out of fall camp, and Notre Dame transfer Drew Pyne are both out indefinitely with injuries.

Borguet’s 3-yard scoring run and successful 2-point conversion pass to Elijhah Badger cut the lead to 24-21 with 9:18 remaining.

California then drove 74 yards in 18 plays, taking 6:28 off the clock, before Ott was stopped for no gain at the Arizona State 1 on a fourth-and-goal run.

However, the Sun Devils’ last possession ended at their 39-yard line when Bourguet’s pass attempt on fourth-and-4 was incomplete with 1:03 left.

California took a 10-7 lead into halftime after both teams struggled in third-down conversions to that point. Arizona State was 2-for-9 and California 2-for-7.

The Sun Devils’ first possession of the second half resulted in a turnover on downs at the Golden Bears 31.

California scored five plays later on a 21-yard touchdown pass from Sam Jackson V to Jeremiah Hunter to increase the lead to 17-7 with 9:11 remaining in the third quarter.

Arizona State appeared to score a touchdown on the next possession but a 1-yard halfback pass from Cameron Skattebo to Badger on fourth-and-goal was nullified because the Sun Devils had 12 players on the field.

Dario Longhetto made a 24-yard field goal to cut the lead to 17-10 with 5:29 left in the third quarter.

A 52-yard pass from Bourguet to Badger on Arizona State’s next possession led to a 29-yard field goal by Longhetto with 44 seconds left in the quarter.

Matthew Littlejohn’s interception returned 19 yards to the Arizona State 11 resulted in an Ott 2-yard scoring run four plays later, giving the Golden Bears a 24-13 lead with 10:52 remaining.

Arizona State (1-4, 0-2) played its first road game of the season.

–Field Level Media

Sep 23, 2023; Tempe, Arizona, USA; USC Trojans quarterback Caleb Williams (13) throws a pass against the Arizona State Sun Devils in the first half at Mountain America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-Arizona Republic

No. 5 USC finally puts away Arizona State 42-28

Caleb Williams completed 20 of 31 passes for 322 yards and three touchdowns, including two in the fourth quarter, as fifth-ranked USC held off Arizona State 42-28 on Saturday in Tempe, Arizona.

USC (4-0, 2-0 Pac-12) clung to a 27-21 lead until Williams evaded would-be tacklers and found Brenden Rice for a 29-yard touchdown pass with 10:31 remaining in the game.

It was Rice’s second scoring catch of the night. The first covered 43 yards from Williams late in the first quarter. Rice led the Trojans with 133 yards on seven catches.

Williams struck again on USC’s next fourth-quarter possession, answering Cam Skattebo’s 52-yard touchdown catch for Arizona State with a 45-yard scoring pass to Tahj Washington. The play effectively ended any hopes of an Arizona State upset after the Sun Devils hung tough most of the way.

Arizona State (1-3, 0-1) struggled through its nonconference schedule, coming into its conference opener on Saturday off a shutout loss to Fresno State. The 28 points the Sun Devils scored against USC marked a season high, with Skattebo’s 111 rushing yards and 79 receiving yards setting the tone.

Skattebo scored on a 15-yard carry in the first quarter, set up when Tate Romney recovered MarShawn Lloyd’s fumble deep in USC territory.

Arizona State’s Drew Pyne went 21 of 36 passing for 221 yards and threw two touchdowns, including a 25-yarder to Elijhah Badger in the third quarter. Skattebo ran for the two-point conversion, pulling the Sun Devils to within three points.

That was as close as Arizona State could get, unable to overcome the reigning Heisman Trophy winner Williams. Along with his three passing touchdowns, he rushed for a pair of 1-yard scores in the first half.

The Trojans averaged 7.3 yards on 29 rushes, led by Lloyd’s 11 per carry. He finished with a game-high 154 yards.

Jamil Muhammad and Solomon Byrd paced the USC defense with three tackles for loss each. Calen Bullock made a leaping interception of a Pyne deep ball in the second half.

–Field Level Media