The team was coached by interim head coach Tim Kish for the last six games of the season after eighth-year head coach Mike Stoops was fired as head coach on October 10 after starting the season 1–5 (their sole victory was against FCSNorthern Arizona). Including the previous season, the Wildcats under Stoops had lost 10 consecutive games against FBS opponents, with their last victory over a FBS team taking place nearly a year earlier on October 30, 2010, against UCLA. Kish, the team's defensive coordinator, was named interim head coach for the remainder of the season. Kish finished the season 3–3, including a Duel in the Desert victory over Arizona State to reclaim the Territorial Cup. Rich Rodriguez was named the Wildcats' new full-time head coach starting in 2012.
On September 3, Arizona pulled away from Northern Arizona as they outscored the Lumberjacks 27–0 in the second half. Quarterback Nick Foles threw for 412 yards on 34 for 42 passing and had three of his five touchdown passes in third quarter to help the Wildcats defeat the Lumberjacks 42–10. Arizona struggled a bit during the second quarter – a quarter in which the Lumberjacks outscored them 10–0 – after take a 14–0 lead during the first quarter. Northern Arizona's Cary Grossart threw for 179 yards on 20 of 26 passing, and Zach Bauman ran for 99 yards on 27 carries during the game. For Arizona, Juron Criner had six receptions for 151 yards and a touchdown, and David Roberts had 7 catches for 58 yards.
Since 1927, UCLA is ahead of Arizona 19–14–2 in this series. The Wildcats have a 10–8 advantage in games played in Tucson, including the last three wins in the Desert. This was Tim Kish's first game as head coach for Arizona. Before halftime, a streaker dressed as a referee and ran off the field, and a fight ensued, leading to two players being ejected and four Arizona players being suspended.