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Bowl eligibility, outgoing ASU seniors add layers to Territorial Cup showdown

TEMPE, Ariz. — The Arizona State football program made most of its seniors available to the media on Tuesday at the Carson Student-Athlete Center, three days ahead of the team’s Territorial Cup showdown with Arizona on Friday in Tucson.

Any cynicism that they had been coached on what to say was quickly dispelled when tight end Kody Kohl took the stand first and offered his thoughts on the U of A.

“Man, I hate this school,” Kohl said. “I grew up bleeding maroon and gold so we’ve always hated that place. I don’t even like going down there.”

Territorial Cup week feels official now.

Former Sun Devil linebacker Brandon Magee was even on hand, reminding everyone how Arizona planted its flag at midfield on the team’s new pitchfork logo at Sun Devil Stadium after an upset win in 2011. The passion is building.

“When you first get to ASU, you just think of it as another game,” safety/linebacker Laiu Moeakiola. “When you experience that loss back in 2014 for the Pac-12 South championship, you never want to feel that feeling again.”

Friday’s game at Arizona Stadium won’t decide the Pac-12 South title like that game two seasons ago. ASU (5-6, 2-6) and UA (2-9, 0-8) sit fourth and sixth in the division this season, but there is always meaning in this game.

In practical terms, ASU needs to win this game to guarantee a bowl bid, even though several 5-7 teams could make the postseason this year because there will not be enough bowl-eligible teams to fill all 80 bowl slots.

Arizona has not won a Pac-12 game all year and its season will end one way or the other on Friday. The Wildcats would take enormous pleasure in posting their first conference win against their in-state rival and keeping ASU from the postseason as well — an honor that coach Todd Graham has called a minimum expectation of his program and one that allows the young players an additional two weeks-plus of practice to develop.

“Allowing the younger guys to get more experience with practices — and bowl practices are always fun, the bowl games are always fun — we look forward to that,” senior receiver Tim White said. “Hopefully, we get out there and we get this win so we can go to a bowl game and enjoy the moment.”

The seniors talked Tuesday of getting the offense back on track by establishing the run game. Defensive back De’Chavon Hayes talked of limiting the explosive plays that have dogged ASU’s beleaguered secondary all season.

With all of that as backdrop, however, the biggest storyline is the possibility that ASU’s seniors will play their final games in Sun Devil uniforms — and many of them could play the final high-level football games of their lives.

It’s just another layer in a rivalry that is chock full of great stories and memorable moments, a layer that adds just a little more pressure for the Sun Devils as they head to the Old Pueblo.

“It does but it doesn’t at the same time,” Kohl said. “This game is everything. The whole entire season, if we lost every game, this is the only game that matters.

“I guess for some people it does (add pressure); the outside people. For us, it’s just U of A and that’s it. We just want to beat those guys.”

ASU’s seniors

LB Richie Becerra
LB Matt Thompson
WR Daniel Groebner
LB Brandon Mathews
WR Eric Lauderdale
DB Bryson Echols
DL Tramel Topps
DL Edmond Boateng
LB Carlos Mendoza
DL Viliami Latu
OL Stephon McCray
OL Evan Goodman
P Matt Haack
DB Gump Hayes
LB Salamo Fiso
WR Fred Gammage
TE Kody Kohl
LB/S Laiu Moeakiola
K Zane Gonzalez
WR Tim White

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