BOULDER, Colo. – Lessons learned in losses over the past two months helped give the University of Arizona the strength to outlast rival Arizona State, 29-17. A brutal stretch saw the Wildcats drop five of their last six matches, while facing the likes of Saint Mary’s, Lindenwood, and Cal.
“The boys learned a lot from that and without playing a tough schedule like we did, we don’t get this win,” said Arizona Head Coach Sean Duffy.
The Sun Devils scored the game’s first points with a penalty, and Arizona speedster Dante Weeks quickly followed with the first try of the match and a 5-3 lead.
A converted try had Arizona State thinking it would head into halftime with a lead, but the advantage quickly went the way of the Wildcats as Kyle Rogers added two penalty kicks in the closing minutes of the opening frame.
Rogers continued his scoring into the second half by converting his own try just minutes after the break.
“Kyle had a really strong day, and it’s a true sign of the growth in him that he has learned to manage the game,” said Duffy of his junior fly half. “He had some mistakes in the first half, corrected them in the second half, and began to really take control. He’s one of the hardest workers on the team, first to the training facility each and every practice – an hour or two beforehand. Today it paid off.”
The eight-point lead Rogers and the Wildcats built wasn’t quite safe. An Arizona State try in the 52nd minute cut the lead to one. However, a Ryan Fitzpatrick try was sandwiched by two more penalty goals from Rogers, and the Sun Devils were dismissed, 29-17.
Rogers’ boot proved crucial in the win, but the Wildcats’ defensive performance from a handful of reserves down the stretch was the real game-changer.
“Ian Hause at center came in early due to injury and played lights out, and our two forward reserves, Dacoda Worth and Ryan Fitzpatrick, really helped solidify the defensive effort in the last 25 minutes when they came on,” Duffy said.
This week Arizona goes on the road to Las Vegas where it will contend with Colorado in a D1A nonconference fixture. Last year, the Wildcats picked off a West Conference opponent, Wyoming, at the Las Vegas Invitational.