ARIZONA STATE @ Arizona: TERRITORIAL CUP, Rivalry & Week 13 Preview

Arizona State at #24 Arizona, Arizona Stadium at 10:00 pm EST/7:00 pm PST on ESPN

The Rivalry

As rivalries go, the Territorial Cup is one of the most storied and passionate in the nation.  It also lays claim to the oldest trophy in college football (yes, the Territorial Cup isn’t just a name, it’s an actual trophy).  Starting before Arizona was even granted statehood, the rivalry between Phoenix and Tucson has ignited over 100 years of competition, specifically in football.  Both the Tempe Normal School (now ASU) and the University of Arizona were founded in 1885, and the first football game between the two schools happened on Thanksgiving Day, 1899: the team that would become ASU won, beating the home team at Carillo Field and gaining official possession of the cup itself (it wasn’t until 2001 when Lattie Coor, then the president of ASU, would order the cup be held by the winning team for the next year).  The fact that Arizona leads the series 47-37 provides nothing but fuel to the fire for each ASU team; Todd Graham went so far as to have digital countdown clocks installed in the locker room with a countdown to kickoff on Friday, what he has called ‘the most important game of the season’ since his first day on the job.

The Rivalry between the two schools extends into the lives of all who attend either school or cheer for the sports teams.  The heat between Arizona and the “school up the road” is so intense that it has prompted “A House Divided” memorabilia line that is sold in bookstores on both campuses.  While it is intended to be a friendly rivalry between instate schools, on occasion both sides can become a little too involved in the battle.  For example, while walking around the stadium to a tailgate in Tempe last season, my friends and I were booed and had trash thrown at us as we unknowingly walked right alongside the ASU student section line.  Likewise, any ASU fan that has set foot near the student section of Arizona stadium has been pelted with cups, garbage, and food.


The Venue

Every year, the Duel in the Desert switches arenas to give both teams equal home field advantage.  When it comes to rivalry games, fans know the Venue makes a world of difference.  This year the Territorial Cup will be held at Arizona Stadium in Tucson.  So far during the season, the Wildcats are 6-1 at home and 1-3 on the road.  Likewise, the Sun Devils are 4-2 at home and 2-3 away.  This hometown comfort could prove to be a boost for the Cats and a detriment to the Devils.

The ZonaZoo is notorious for adding a loud, rowdy, and enthusiastic feel to the Arizona sideline, however, with a major part of the student body away for Thanksgiving vacation, the Zoo may be lacking a bit of the normal roar.  Never fear! Arizona Athletics accounted for the absence of these students and has allowed the general public to purchase seats within the student section.  Now, diehard fans from all over can get a feel for the student section and get a front row view of the Arizona sideline.  While this may lead to the presence of some ASU fans in the areas usually reserved for only the most devoted Wildcat fans, I have a feeling the students who have stuck around for the game will be more than prepared to protect what’s theirs.  Another glaring vacancy at Arizona Stadium is the under-construction north end zone; this section has been empty all season and is an eyesore for game attendees.  Intended to enclose the arena into a proper stadium, the North End Zone Project is slated to be finished July of 2013.  The new facilities underneath the expanded seating will include concessions, bathrooms, and enhanced seating for fans as well as a new locker room, training room, and cafeteria for Arizona Football.

After a few days of chilly weather (and I use “chilly” in a loose, Arizona-native way) the regulation Tucson weather (around 80 degrees) has returned and will not pose any trouble to game attendees.  With a 0% chance of rain and low winds, tailgating pre-game and kick off should be perfect weather conditions for enjoying this rivalry from the stands or the patio of your favorite sports bar and grill.  As the sun sets, so will the temperature so bring a jacket as temperatures fall into the mid-60s after sunset.

Just as ASU fans raze UA fans when they come to Sun Devil Stadium, Arizona Stadium is not a friendly place for those decked in maroon-and-gold. Arizona Stadium has a reputation in Tempe as being loud and rowdy, but always worth the trip into the heart of Tucson for the Territorial Cup. There are a number of university-sponsored turn-around bus trips from ASU to Tucson for the game, and many people who have friends and family down there are making a weekend getaway out of the game.


The Teams

ASU: ASU (6-5; 4-4 Pac-12) snapped a four-game losing streak with a statement win over Washington State last week.  The win is good for their confidence, which had been shaken as of late, and is the best-case-scenario for making the trip south to take on #24 Arizona.  Quarterback Taylor Kelly got his groove back in last week’s game, completing 85% of his passes and getting after four touchdowns.  On the other side of the ball, the defense again showed their strength, holding WSU to 240 pass yards and a single touchdown (a feat they’re looking to duplicate against UA).

Preparations for Friday’s game essentially began after the heartbreaking final minutes of last year’s 31-27 loss to Nick Foles and the 2011 Wildcat team.  Dennis Erikson was fired, Todd Graham was brought in, and he promised a victory over UA (and Rich Rodriguez, who he had worked with previously at West Virginia).  Graham’s focus this week has been on the defense, and their ability to quell the run (specifically Ka’Deen Carey) and get after the quarterback.  That’s not to say the offense can rest on its laurels from last week’s win: to be successful, ASU receivers need to step up for the big plays, and keep the tempo at a level that can stymie the Wildcat defense (who are still working out the kinks of a 3-3-5 defensive scheme).

Arizona: Arizona’s (7-4; 4-4 Pac-12) win over the Utah Utes was their first win on the road this season.  The 34-24 victory was also enough to garner a position on the top 25 in the BCS rankings.  Also notable in this victory was the return of starting quarterback Matt Scott.  Scott sustained a concussion during the Cats’ game at UCLA and was unable to play against Colorado.  With Scott’s return came more on-field vomiting! Scott is earning a reputation for himself as a “puker”. After taking a hit to the head against USC, Scott vomited on his home field between plays, but was not taken out of the game for a concussion test.  The team reported that Scott did not in fact have a concussion.  Against the Utes, Scott did not sustain any contact to his head, but did proceed to vomit on the field again.  Scott indicated to the coaches in the press box that he was okay shortly after the incident.  Because this is Arizona football and even more so because this is the Territorial Cup, past performance by either team don’t necessarily come into play for this game.  Evidence of this comes directly from last year’s Wildcat season.  The Cats were 2-8 going into the Territorial Cup facing a 6-4 Sun Devils team.


What to Watch For

Ka’Deem Carey will be a crucial element of this Friday’s game.  Currently the nation’s leading rusher, Carey has been key in Arizona’s offense.  Although not gaining national media coverage as those whose entire squads are performing well, Carey has broken University of Arizona and Pac-12 records this season and still has one more game to up his numbers.

Senior QB Matt Scott is well known for running the ball himself when the situation calls for it and has gained significant yards on his attempts (96 yards, 5 touchdowns).  Scott is averaging 300 yards per game and 7.3 yards per attempt.

Keep an eye on ASU’s defense, and how they start the first ten minutes of the first quarter; it’s very possible this sets the tone for the rest of the game.  Both teams have been thinking about this game all season, so everyone will be playing with high intensity (which could lead to high frustration on behalf of the Devils if things don’t go quite right.  Alden Darby, a safety and one of the team’s rallying leaders, has an additional reason for emotion: he attended his 23-year-old cousin’s funeral on Monday.

Both teams have undergone a significant transformation as part of their respective coaching changes, and both are looking to seal the deal with a signature win (and secure the Territorial Cup for the upcoming year).  Either way, it’s going to be an exciting game.


The Fan Experience

The Arizona Stadium experience is fulfilling. From the sea of red, to one of the largest video boards in college football, to the ZonaZoo traditions, Arizona Football is something to be experienced firsthand.  There is nothing that quite compares to attending a Territorial Cup game.  The passion for the game is expanded 10 fold and everything is much more intense.  Because emotions are running at maximum capacity, there is the tendency for tensions to run high.  It is best for both teams to maintain respect for each other and for fans to do the same.  Because Arizona is Wildcat Country, fans making the trip from ASU should keep in mind that they are not in their backyard and that Wildcat fans may be protective, to say the least.  Likewise, Arizona fans pride themselves on staying classy and following the tradition of being sportsman like hosts and not causing unnecessary uproar.

Gabriela’s the expert on being a fan in Arizona stadium, so there’s not much I can add.  I will, however, say that ASU fans can sometimes refuse to keep it classy, so don’t be offended (or surprised) by anything.  There are still a lot of fans who are enthralled by Todd Graham and the changes he’s made to the team, and they’ll be driving south in droves with the hope of watching the Devils trounce their in-state rivals.  The hordes in maroon-and-gold will be bringing beer and BBQ (maybe some Thanksgiving leftovers) to Tucson, and it will almost be like a home-crowd tailgate (except in enemy territory).

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