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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Territorial Cup: ASU looks to become bowl eligible, Wildcats just looking for another win


Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez gestures and shouts mid-game at Arizona Stadium on Nov. 14. Rodriguez enters his fourth Territorial Cup showdown with a previous record of 1-2.

Arizona and ASU are ready to do battle once again in the most recent edition of the Territorial Cup on Saturday at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe.

Last year’s Territorial Cup decided the Pac-12 South, thanks to a Stanford upset over UCLA. Arizona was No. 11 in the country at the time, while ASU was No. 13. Arizona Stadium was filled to capacity as the Wildcats went on to defeat the Sun Devils 42-35, earning Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez his first victory over ASU’s Todd Graham.

“Our staffs know each other, our fans talk about it year-round, so our players and coaches hear about it all the time,” Rodriguez said. “There’s usually a lot at stake and it’s still the biggest game on our schedule every year.”

Arizona (6-5, 3-5 Pac-12 Conference) became bowl eligible after a 37-30 double-overtime victory over Utah on senior night. ASU (5-5, 3-4) still needs that sixth win to make it into the bowl discussion as well.

ASU started the season at No. 15 in the country, but an early loss to Texas A&M took them out of the top 25. The Sun Devils have since been up and down, with convincing wins over UCLA and Washington, but also big losses to Utah, USC and a triple-overtime loss to Oregon.

ASU quarterback Mike Bercovici replaced starter Taylor Kelly in the Territorial Cup last season and went on to throw for 123 yards on 14-of-22 passing, two scores and one interception, as he attempted to bring the Sun Devils back from being down early.

Bercovici will be looking for a different outcome this year in his final showdown with Arizona.

“He can make all the throws,” Rodriguez said. “This guy has got as strong an arm as anybody in our league. He can be really quick. That’s the thing that scares you. You can bring pressure and have a guy unblocked, but he’s got such a quick release, he can get it there in a hurry.”

Arizona quarterback Anu Solomon is day-to-day with a head injury, while running back Nick Wilson is still recovering from knee injury and is listed as questionable. Scooby Wright III is not expected to play and Jake Matthews, his linebacker replacement, is also out for the season with a foot injury.

The Wildcats received big performances from their young players against ASU last year. Wilson ran for 178 yards and three scores, including a 72-yarder. Solomon went 15-for-21 for 208 yards and two scores, both of which were thrown to receiver Samajie Grant. Wright sacked Kelly on the third play of the game, forcing a fumble in which Anthony Lopez recovered and returned for the first touchdown of the game.

This will mark the 10th game of the season that Wright has not played in. A preseason All-American, Wright’s presence has been sorely missed on a defense that has consistently ranked at the bottom of the country in terms of total yards allowed and yards per game.

ASU knocked Arizona off 58-21 the last time the Territorial Cup was in Tempe. The Wildcats will look to write a different script and a new chapter in the rivalry to end the regular season this year.

“I’ve kind of forgotten about [the last game in Tempe],” senior wide receiver David Richards said. “I think I am more focused on last year’s win. I think that is what has been on all of our minds and I think we can do it again this year.”

Arizona will kickoff for the Territorial Cup against ASU at 1:30 p.m. Saturday. Catch the game on Fox Sports 1.

Follow Kyle Hansen on Twitter.

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