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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


‘Cats look to rebound from loss

After a tough loss, the best type of motivation is a rivalry game, and that’s exactly what’s in store for the Arizona football team this weekend.

The Wildcats (6-4, 4-3 Pacific 10 Conference) will travel to Tempe to take on ASU (4-7, 2-6 Pac-10) Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at Sun Devil Stadium. While ASU was eliminated from the bowl picture after last week’s loss to UCLA, Arizona still has plenty to play for as it tries to improve its bowl position and bounce back from last week’s heart-breaking loss to Oregon.

“”(ASU is) going to be fired up because it’s a rivalry game, and of course we’re trying to have a better season,”” said UA wide receiver Terrell Turner. “”This is the bowl game for them, by them being out of contention, so we’re just going to keep our composure and go out there and execute.””

Most teams have had trouble executing on offense against the Sun Devils this season, as they’ve proven to be one of the stingier units in the Pac-10. ASU ranks 13th in the nation and first in the conference in total defense, allowing 300.5 yards per game. The 107.8 rushing yards allowed per game ranks second in the Pac-10 and the 192.7 passing yards allowed per game is tops in the Pac-10. Despite a sub-par record, the Sun Devils are still a tough opponent.

“”Their D-line and linebackers are all big guys and their secondary is a little bit young, but they’re pretty much big physical guys up front so we’ve got to match that,”” said UA center Colin Baxter.

ASU is also physical on the offensive side of the ball. While the Sun Devils have trouble scoring — their 22.8 points per game ranks eighth in the Pac-10 and 89th in the nation out of 120 teams — their offensive line seems to be the strength of the group. ASU has used three different quarterbacks on the season, which has hurt its consistency, but the offensive line has continued to reinforce the team’s physical style.

“”They’re better up front and they’re just a better offense,”” said UA defensive coordinator Mark Stoops. “”They’ve been efficient, they’ve had some penalties and turnovers in critical situations and sometimes that’s hard to overcome. We know all about that, whether it be on offense or defense, but a couple less critical errors here or there and their record could be completely different.””

It’s not unusual for records to be thrown out the window in rivalry games, something that certainly applies to the Duel in the Desert. Before last season, it was the Sun Devils who were primed to improve their bowl position while the Wildcats were out to play the spoiler. Now, the tables have turned as Arizona seems to be the better team on paper against a struggling ASU squad.

But that doesn’t mean the Wildcats are taking this season’s game against the Sun Devils lightly. Actually, it’s the opposite. The fact remains that it’s a game between two teams that don’t like each other, and the battle for the Territorial Cup still holds a special significance.

“”A lot of things are always said before the ASU game and that’s why (head coach Mike) Stoops always tells us that the game is played, not talked,”” said UA safety Cam Nelson. “”We just try to keep our mouths closed and just play.””

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