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In the only game that counted towards the PAC standings this week, Arizona bested Arizona State 35-25 for Southwest bragging rights. The Wildcats got off to a bit of a slow start but ultimately outlasted their in state rivals to improve to 2-1 in conference action.
The Sun Devils opened the scoring with two penalties early in the first half but Arizona limited the damage to the six points. The Wildcats did not get on the board until minute 30, a penalty from Luke Thayer. The freshman was clutch with the boot all afternoon, nailing all three of his penalties and hitting on three of four conversions.
“We battled some yellow cards in the first half. Our defense came up big bending but not breaking,” said Arizona coach Sean Duffy.
Arizona scored the first try of the match right before halftime and took a 10-6 lead into the break. Arizona State, however, responded right after intermission with a try to retake the lead 13-10.
The lead changes continued throughout the second half. Arizona retook the lead with a Ryan Fitzpatrick try and two Thayer Penalties and looked to be pulling away at 23-13. The Sun Devils, however, battled back scoring two tries, one of which was converted, to take a 25-23 lead with 10 minutes to play.
Arizona showed great resiliency after falling behind, though, thanks in large part to the work of three key substitutes. Dante Weeks, Zach Higgs and Ben Scoular came off the bench and injected some energy into the team that was desperately needed.
“They came on and brought a really good burst of energy in the middle of the second half,” Duffy said of the trio.
Weeks and Scoular set up what turned out to be the game-winning try for the Wildcats. after Weeks found a gap, he offloaded to Scoular who then sent Matt Rogers in for the final lead change. At 28-25, Weeks intercepted a pass and went the distance for the match-sealing try.
“Playing situational rugby this was a good exercise for us. We didn’t play our best but we got the win and that is all that really matters. ASU was determined but we got some things going at the right time,” Duffy concluded.
Arizona is now in a battle with Utah for second place in the conference. The two will square off on March 25.
While the battle in Arizona was the only game that affected the standings, UCLA did take on USC this weekend. The Bruins bounced back from a couple of discouraging losses to beat the Trojans 54-12.
The game was close early with USC getting on the board first with a try. The bruins responded almost immediately and never relinquished the lead. Although they only managed one more score in the first half, the Bruins piled it on in the second stanza with six tries. UCLA scored three of its tries in the first 10 minutes of the second half and were off to the races.
UCLA will take on Cal March 11 in its final game of conference action