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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Column: Let the Territorial madness begin

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Tyler Baker
Tyler Baker / The Daily Wildcat

The winter-chilled state of Arizona is about to heat back up. The game has been circled on both teams’ calendars since the game decided who would advance to the Pac-12 Conference Championship Game a year ago. Arizona and ASU are set to square off in the annual Territorial Cup matchup Saturday in Tempe.

The rivalry is known to get a little overheated to say the least. Born and raised in Arizona, I know this to be fact. My house was divided growing up. For obvious reasons, rivalry week holds a special place in my heart.

But few truly understand what it means to be part of such a rivalry more than Arizona football head coach Rich Rodriguez.

Before last season, ASU football head coach Todd Graham had got the best of Rodriguez for two seasons. But, as we all remember, Arizona defeated ASU 42-35 to win the Pac-12 South for the first time in program history and snap the losing streak.

What a moment.

Rodriguez has experienced his fair share of rivalry games, including West Virginia-Pittsburgh rivalry and Michigan-Ohio State rivalry. ASU’s Graham is very familiar with rivalries as well, experiencing both sides of the Pittsburgh-West Virginia showdown and being part of the Houston-Rice rivalry for a season as well.

“This [rivalry] is as intense as any of the ones I have been involved in, and I have been involved in some big ones,” Rodriguez said. “I think the fact that it is in the same state, in the same conference and the same division in the same conference, our staff knows each other, you recruit against each other—although I think the recruiting aspect of it is a little overrated. Our fans talk about this game year round. Our guys, our players and our coaches hear about it all the time. It is an intense rivalry and a lot of emotion goes into it.”

Arizona proved its season had purpose last week against then-No. 10 Utah, and the Wildcats proved they would not back down. Arizona already has one up on the Sun Devils this season after clinching bowl eligibility, as ASU still needs to win one of its last two games.

But who doesn’t want to bring home the oldest rivalry trophy in the sport of college football? Arizona leads the all-time series 48-39-1. But don’t tell ASU fans that.

In terms of rivalry, ASU and Arizona sometimes get a bit emotional, especially the fans. Most of the incidents have been petty.

Arizona students have traditionally painted ASU’s version of “A” Mountain from maroon and gold to red and blue. In retaliation, ASU students have painted the Wildcat Family statue on the UA Mall maroon and gold.

ASU’s Student Alumni Association and members of the 942 Crew have stayed out in the midst of the night this year to protect their historic property.

Some incidents have gone too far, though. ASU fans taunted Arizona basketball star Steve Kerr in 1988 about the assassination of his father. Wildcat fans burned the number 200—representing the proposition that turned Arizona State College into ASU—in the middle of ASU’s field on opening day in 1958. Multiple punches have been thrown and brawls have occurred during games throughout the years.

The latest prank came from four ASU students who convinced Arizona students to support Proposition 200, a completely falsified proposition to “return” the UA to Mexico. ASU student Ben Kaufman was the ringleader behind the prank.

“The whole idea behind this was to start, you know, the whole history back and forth between ASU and UA,” Kaufman said to Campus Rush. “It was kind of the idea of trying to start a more creative prank war. You know, sort of next-level-type of prank than just defacing something. What I’m really hoping is that they try to come back and hit us with something, so we can go back and hit them again.”

Kaufman has a point. He, along with his comrades, are just the latest fiasco in the rivalry. That’s probably what’s bound to happen. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if more pranks happen by week’s end.

The upcoming game will say a lot about both teams and their respective seasons. Rodriguez has been rumored to possibly leave at the end of the season, but after Arizona’s upset of Utah, a fourth straight bowl bid and a looming rivalry matchup, who knows?

This upcoming game will be personal. ASU is coming for vengeance after arguably the most important Territorial Cup game of all time. Wilbur and Sparky are bound to get into a tussle. ASU quarterback Mike Bercovici has had a disappointing season thus far, but will look to rebound and carve up the Arizona defense in his final Territorial Cup.

The Wildcats managed to score their biggest victory of the season last weekend. A bigger game awaits them Saturday, however.

Let the game begin.


Follow Matt Wall on Twitter.


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