Updated Nov 29, 2013 - 12:13 pm
A Wildcat remembers his favorite memories of the Territorial Cup
When tasked with putting together a list of my favorite Territorial Cup rivalry memories, I did so with a caveat: I began my college career in 2002, and it was at that moment I became an Arizona Wildcat fan. Nothing before that really mattered to me, so unlike my colleague Vince Marotta, I do not have nearly as many games to choose from. So note that I cannot really count some of Arizona's big wins, including the 1982 victory over No. 6 ASU or the 1986 win over the fourth-ranked and then-undefeated Sun Devils.
I can't even claim the streak.
However, that does not mean I've been unable to enjoy the rivalry, as it has given me some incredible memories.
1. 2011: Arizona 31, ASU 27
There are few things better than beating Arizona State, especially when that win makes up 25 percent of Arizona's victory total. That the Wildcats knocked off the bowl-bound Sun Devils - in their own building -- was just the icing on the cake.
But that's when things turned around, and I'd like to thank the Sun Devils' inability to tackle for that.
Nick Foles hit Gino Crump for a touchdown to get Arizona within three before getting injured. Ahh hell, in comes Bryson Beirne (yeah, I also knew nothing about him), and he proceeds to hit Juron Criner with a screen pass that he took 23 yards to the house.
Of course, what would an Arizona game be without some late-game drama, as Brock Osweiler led the Devils into UA territory only to throw an interception with a couple minutes left, and following an Arizona three-and-out, had one more chance to send the Wildcats (and myself) home unhappy.
He failed, and the second his last-ditch attempt to hit Mike Willie in the end zone was broken up a sense of excitement (as well as relief) washed over me and the rest of my UA brethren.
2. 2008: UA 31, ASU 10
I have to be honest: For a three-year stretch, one that coincided with my graduation from college as well as my entry into the real world, the Arizona football team provided me very little joy. The team was as mediocre as could be, with chances for bowl games repeatedly ruined by the Sun Devils in the final week of the regular season.
In 2005, the Wildcats choked away a 20-5 third quarter lead with the help of injuries to quarterback Willie Tuitama and running back Mike Bell, who had tallied 117 yards and a touchdown on the afternoon. A punt return for a touchdown tied things up, and a field goal in the final minute left the Wildcats with a loss in my last rivalry game as a student.
In 2007, the Wildcats had a great chance to knock off the 13th-ranked Sun Devils in Tempe, only to fall short on a chilly night thanks to a lack of a running game and untimely turnovers. Oh, and ASU QB Rudy Carpenter threw two touchdowns on the night, and a Sun Devil fan taunted a friend of mine and I with "We're going to crush you like a hamster!"
But then came 2008, when the Wildcats, who were clearly the superior team, showed it on the field with a comfortable win.
Tuitma threw two touchdowns, Nic Grigsby ran for 114 yards and a score, Rob Gronkowski dominated with six catches for 95 yards and a touchdown and Mike Thomas returned a punt 52 yards for a score. Carpenter, who was hated by both Arizona and Arizona State fans, completed just 13-of-31 passes for 124 yards on the evening.
This win was as sweet as it was cathartic, and it sent the Wildcats to the Vegas Bowl the right way while eliminating the Sun Devils from the postseason picture.
3. 2004: Arizona 34, ASU 27
What's amazing about this game is that the Sun Devils had far more talent than the Wildcats. At quarterback it was Andrew Walter before being knocked out of the game, and he was replaced by Sam Keller. Arizona started Richard Kovalcheck.
The Sun Devils were led in receiving by the likes of Zach Miller and Derek Hagan. The Wildcats? Syndric Steptoe is about the only name one might recognize.
But none of that mattered, as Arizona turned a 17-13 second quarter deficit into a 27-17 lead by the time the fourth quarter started. It was 34-27 when Keller drove the Devils into UA territory, but his 4th-and-10 pass was dropped and the victory was sealed.
We didn't know it at the time, but it was the last win UA would earn in this series for a while.
4. 2009: Arizona 20, ASU 17
The Arizona Wildcats were a better team in 2009, and they entered the game with a 7-4 record compared to ASU's 4-7 mark. The 'Cats were heading for the Holiday Bowl, while the Devils were heading home.
Things seemed to be going that direction, as the Wildcats had a 14-0 halftime lead thanks to a 67-yard run by Keola Antolin and a blocked punt that was returned for a score.
Oh, and ASU starting Samson Szakacsy helped, too.
But the Devils battled back, even tying things up with just over two minutes remaining.
A three-and-out from the Arizona offense led to a punt, and ASU return man Kyle Williams, who had already caught two touchdowns on the afternoon, failed to corral the punt. The muff was recovered by UA at the Sun Devil 22, and three plays later Arizona had the ball at 15 ready to kick a field goal.
Knowing time was of the essence I rushed down from my upper deck seat to the lower level, watched Alex Zendejas's 32-yard attempt split the uprights through a lower-level entryway, and bolted out of Sun Devil Stadium.
It was a good day.
Adam Green, Web Content Editor - ArizonaSports.com
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