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Graham on Territorial Cup: ‘It’s not more deep rooted than this one’

(AP Photo/Ryan Kang)

Dating back to 2009, Arizona State has become accustomed to either winning the Territorial Cup or coming up just short.

Until last year.

The Arizona Wildcats put together a convincing 56-35 win against ASU, a game where they had a 28-7 lead midway through the second quarter and never looked back in a second half where they didn’t even attempt a pass. It capped off Graham’s worst season and tied for the worst lost to the Wildcats since 2008.

A year later, the schools have put together surprising seasons after many speculated they would fill out the bottom of the Pac-12 South standings.

Graham knows this is the game that can determine how he and everyone in the program will be judged.

“One of the things that you are measured by at Arizona State is whether you get it done in this game or not,” Graham said. “They are obviously very aware that we didn’t get it done last year.  We don’t obviously want to be on that side of it.” 

Graham has come out victorious three times in five meetings against Arizona and has not lost the Territorial Cup at home.

In the beginning stages of Graham’s gig at Arizona State, he recalls being taken aback during speaking engagements when the topic of the rivalry arose. While promoting his program, he found that everyone put an emphasis on the Territorial Cup.

“When I first talked to (former ASU running back) Whizzer White, within five seconds of the conversation, ‘talk about this game,'” Graham said. “Met (former coach) Frank Kush the night I got hired; first thing he talks about. ‘You better mark this one.’

“Until you come up short in this game, you don’t really realize how much it means. You find out in a hurry.”

In Graham’s tenure, ASU has a +31 point margin facing Arizona. The Sun Devils won two home games against the Wildcats with a 52-37 victory in 2015 and a 58-21 win in 2013.

Of course, when it comes to rivalry games, sometimes you have to throw away any trends.

“It’s not more deep rooted than this one as far as the passion that people have about this game,” Graham said. “If you look at all the records for these games, you can throw it out. That day it’s the team that brings it and the team that wants it the most, and it has two major factors … turnover ratio and explosive plays.” 

The Territorial Cup will be in Tempe on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. You can catch the action on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station. 

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