It’s been 714 days since the Arizona Wildcats last tasted a college football victory, beating the Colorado Buffaloes in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains on an early October afternoon.
That aftermath of that 35-30 victory in 2019 has been consistently painful for those who bet on the Wildcats, along with fans and players, alike, with 14 straight losses by a 543-254 margin.
All that sustained misery has a chance to be erased, for a day at least, as Northern Arizona of the Football Championship Subdivision comes to Tucson at 7 p.m. local time Saturday.
It’s the second Wildcats game since sports betting in Arizona went live on Sept. 9, giving bettors a chance bet on their favorite college teams, including Arizona and Arizona State. The Sun Devils face BYU in Provo, Utah, on Saturday night.
The Arizona-North Arizona game, which will be carried nationally on the Pac-12 Network, pits two winless teams against each other.
The Lumberjacks are 0-2 this season, having lost to Sam Houston State (42-16) and South Dakota (34-7).
At DraftKings Arizona the Wildcats were installed as a 23-point favorite (each team at -110 on the spread) and the over/under was listed at 52 as of Friday afternoon.
The game had not been listed at that point by either of the other two main betting operators in the state – BetMGM Arizona and FanDuel Arizona. ESPN’s Football Power Index gives the Wildcats a 94.2 percent chance of winning the contest.
Who to Watch?
The Wildcats have a full-on quarterback controversy, after former Washington State Cougar Gunner Cruz struggled mightily against San Diego State last Saturday.
Cruz finished the game, which the Wildcats lost, 38-14, with 70 passing yards, a touchdown and an interception, with a Quarterback Rating of 24.0, according to ESPN.
Cruz’s struggles open the door for backup Will Plummer to make his first start of the season Saturday, after the latter posted 118 passing yards and a touchdown in limited action against the Aztecs and BYU Cougars.
Plummer finished his first season in Tucson with 388 yards and three interceptions through the air, with 95 yards on the ground to his credit.
The former Gilbert High School gunslinger brings a dual-threat capability to Arizona’s offense, with the ability to run and pass from shotgun formations.
Will Running Game Emerge?
That could open running room for running back Michael Wiley, who has been bottled up on the ground in two contests.
Wiley, who finished his first full season in Tucson with 222 rushing yards and three scores, has 70 yards on 20 carries this season, to go with 64 receiving yards on eight catches.
The sophomore should be featured prominently come Saturday night, against an NAU defense that’s surrendered 480 yards per game on the ground this season.
Berryhill Shows Up
Perhaps the lone bright spot on the turf for first-year head coach Jedd Fisch and company has been junior wideout Stanley Berryhill III, who has a team-high 169 yards on 17 catches with a touchdown this season.
The Tucson native will be asked to create dynamic plays, both in the pass and running game, when the Lumberjacks come calling on Saturday night.
The co-captain appears more than ready to answer the call, after posting 102 and 67 receiving yards in Arizona’s first two contests this season.
For now, Berryhill and his teammates will look to do whatever it takes to drag the Wildcats to vicgtory for the first time since October 2019.
If they do, it’ll be a moment almost two years in the making, from the team’s triumph over a team from Colorado to one over one located in the heart of the Colorado Plateau.