BOULDER, Colo. (AP) — Arizona pass rusher Taylor Upshaw sent out a save-the-date sort of notice on social media last May just so no one would forget.
The former Colorado player even added a few emojis for good measure on his post with a pair of observing eyes, popcorn box and a face with the hand over the mouth.
At long last, that day — “11/11/23,” he wrote — is here as the bowl-eligible and 23rd-ranked Wildcats (6-3, 4-2 Pac-12, No. 21 CFP ) try to keep rolling against Colorado (4-5, 1-5) at sold-out Folsom Field.
This Saturday appears to have long been circled on the calendar for Upshaw after spending last spring with coach Deion Sanders and Colorado before hopping into the transfer portal and joining Arizona. Receiver Montana Lemonious-Craig also left Colorado — after a big spring game in Boulder — to join the Wildcats.
Arizona coach Jedd Fisch understands that emotions may run high.
His advice? Don’t make it personal.
“Don't worry that you came from there," Fisch explained. “Don’t worry that you made a decision to go somewhere else. Just play ball.”
Lemonious-Craig has been a valuable addition for the Wildcats, catching 20 passes for 183 yards and two TDs. So has Upshaw, who has a career-high 7 1/2 sacks this season. Upshaw played at Michigan before arriving at Colorado for a new start as a grad transfer. He then left for Arizona.
“Whatever he chose to do, why he chose to go in the portal after the semester, I don’t really know and I never really asked him,” Fisch said. “He became available, he reached out, he wanted to become part of our program, wanted to help us on the defensive line ... We’re excited that he’s on our team.”
The Wildcats are on a three-game winning streak — all over AP Top 25 teams — and are bowl eligible for the first time since 2017.
Just another step forward under Fisch.
“One of our goals is to play 13 or more games. So we hit that goal," Fisch said. “That’s all that happened. We hit that goal to play 13 or more games. Now we have an opportunity to reset and start trying to achieve other goals.”
Colorado is trying to rediscover its early season recipe for success, when the team went 3-0 and averaged 41.3 points a game. The Buffaloes have averaged 25.3 points in losing five of the last six.
“We have to learn how to win. We’ve got to seize the moment,” Sanders said. “We’ve got to stand tall in the midst of adversity and we’re learning that. That’s a process.”
Sanders wouldn’t reveal too much about who would be the primary signal caller against the Wildcats. Last week, Colorado quality control analyst and longtime NFL coach Pat Shurmur was made co-offensive coordinator with Sean Lewis.
“You’re barking up a tree that you ain’t gonna get up. Just let it go,” Sanders said when asked about the situation. “We’re not where we want to be. But we ain’t where we used to be. We’re going in the right direction."
The Buffaloes take the field at Folsom Field for the final time this season. They've sold out all six home games for the first time in Colorado history.
“Positive hope,” Sanders said of what he wants to leave the fans with after going 2-3 at home. “I wish you could only understand how close we are to being what we want to be and do what we want to do.”
The school is adding a new video board on the south end of Folsom Field for next season.
Arizona allowed 36.5 points a game last season. This season, it’s 19.8 points a game. What’s more, the Wildcats surrendered more than 150 yards rushing in 10 of their 12 games a year ago. They’ve held all nine opponents under 150 yards this year so far.
THE STREAK’S END
With Colorado unranked, Arizona’s impressive streak of beating three straight AP Top 25 teams comes to a close. The Pac-12 teams to win four in a row over ranked AP teams since 1980 were Stanford (2012) and Southern California (2012-13), according to Pac-12 research.
AP freelance writer Monica Costello contributed.
AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll and https://apnews.com/hub/college-football