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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Territorial Cup notebook: Brandon Dawkins’ love affair; Sani Fuimaono’s postgame outfit and bittersweet ending for Arizona seniors

Alex McIntyre
Arizona running back Samajie Grant (10) keeps an eye on the Arizona State defense as he rushes during the 2016 Territorial Cup at Arizona Stadium on Friday, Nov. 25. The Wildcats took home the Territorial Cup after triumphing over the Sun Devils 56-35.

The Arizona football season received a cherry of a season that didn’t have too many scoops to make it a memorable sundae, but the chance to steal a win from ASU to force the Sun Devils out of bowl contention made the year at least a little better.

After all, whenever these two teams meet, the records and rankings are thrown out the window, because rivalry games are about who’s playing more aggressive and efficient that day. Surprisingly, the Wildcats played with energy and passion, which was something Arizona fans didn’t see all season.

The Wildcats lost eight consecutive games, fans weren’t showing up and the buzz around the Old Pueblo was that Rich Rodriguez’ job was at stake, but Arizona’s win Friday proved that there could be a light at the end of the tunnel. A light that could eliminate this season and move on to fry bigger fish.

For now, the Wildcats are simmering in the victory circle for the first time since beating Hawai’i and Rich Rodriguez enjoyed a “cold refreshment” after the win Friday. Here’s the Territorial Cup notebook. 

Arizona huddled on offense?

Most would assume head coach Rich Rodriguez was a lunatic if he slowed down his reputable, high-powered spread offense, but for the first time in the Rodriguez era, the Wildcats huddled.

Substitutions were constantly rotating and signaling plays. Arizona quarterback Brandon Dawkins said the Sun Devils were “cheating” and called out Arizona’s plays before the ball was snapped. 

Sani Fuimaono’s postgame outfit:

Arizona senior defensive lineman Sani Fuimaono was the heart and soul of the team all season and usually steals the show with his charisma. Instead it was his custom outfit that was created by his family that flew in from Hawai’i and Samoa caught everyone’s attention.

Brothers from another mother:

In their time at Arizona, senior wide receivers Samajie Grant and Nate Phillips were always key players in the offense. Even with former players like Ka’Deem Carey and Cayleb Jones running the show from the previous seasons, the duo of Grant and Phillips saw the field and were the leaders Rodriguez hoped for even in a season like this season.

“I’ve been with him for 4 years now—every game,” Phillips said. “When you find someone—I mean we’re complete opposites, but we complement each other all the time.”

Even when Grant converted to playing running back for the last four games of the season, Phillips said he thought their relationship was going to change.

“We didn’t even talk,” Phillips said. “I thought they were going to get me a new roommate, because he’s a running back now… At the same at practice, we’re always right next to each other.”

Phillips finished the night with two catches for 68 yards and touchdown while Grant collected 176 yards on the ground for three touchdowns. Phillips and Grant were never on top of the statistic sheets consistently, but should be remembered as the players that helped the foundation when Rich Rodriguez settled in Tucson. 

Setting records:

Predicting the Wildcats to win a football game where the quarterback only completes three passes and won sounds ludicrous, but the run attack for Arizona was unstoppable since the first quarter.

Arizona ran for 511-yards and broke a school record. Dawkins, Grant and Zach Green rushed for more than 100 yards against ASU, which was the first time in Arizona history since playing Oregon in 1993.

“Brandon Dawkins was terrific, of course a guy like him gives a whole different dimension,” Rodriguez said. “To throw as few times as we did and to run for 500, those guys have to be really unselfish and they were.”

With the Wildcats scoring 56 points, Friday was also the first time Arizona scored more than 50 points against ASU since 1958. Rich Rodriguez was born five years later so it’s been a little while since the Wildcats produced that much offense against the Sun Devils. 

Brandon Dawkins’ love affair with Miss Arizona:

In the first half when the Wildcats were driving, Dawkins was thrown out of bounds on a late hit and stopped his momentum by running into Miss Arizona. Fuimaono joked about the interaction between the quarterback and Miss Arizona.

“He laid there for a second,” Fuimaono said.

Miss Arizona just so happens to be the girlfriend of former Wildcat linebacker Jake Fischer, but that didn’t stop Dawkins from having a little fun after the game.

“I told her if she needs anything to let me know and I’ll take her out to dinner any time that she needs it,” Dawkins said. 

What next?

The win over ASU doesn’t take anything away from the fact that Arizona had an awful season. Finishing 3-9 and 1-8 in conference play is atrocious, but the Wildcats ended the season on a high note and should focus strictly on getting back into conference contention for next season.

Rodriguez will watch his son Rhett play in the Arizona high school state championship Saturday at University of Phoenix Stadium and then jump straight into recruiting.

With teams like Washington, Colorado and USC finding its way into the national spotlight, the Pac-12 is only getting deeper and Arizona has to keep up with the Jones’. Arizona fans can focus on what they really want—basketball, but keep an eye on this Arizona program in the near future, because Rodriguez may have something up his sleeve with the talent he’s bringing in.

Follow Justin Spears on Twitter.

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