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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Arizona football to go Duck hunting in California

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Rebecca Marie Sasnett
during the first half of Arizona’s 21-21 tie to ASU at Arizona Stadium on Friday.

Rather than a new TV or a new video game system, Arizona football picked up something more valuable on Black Friday: the Pac-12 South championship.

The No. 8 Wildcats (10-2, 7-2 Pac-12 Conference) beat archrival and then-No. 13 ASU 42-35 on Friday to not only win the Territorial Cup and state bragging rights, but to also win their first ever Pac-12 South championship.

Arizona will now face No. 3 Oregon on Friday in the Pac-12 Championship Game at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif.

“I’m really pleased with the direction of the football program,” UA athletic director Greg Byrne said, “and I think Arizona fans across the world, literally, are extremely excited about that too, so I can’t wait for this Friday.”

Arizona has never won an outright Pac-10 or Pac-12 championship. The best it has done was tying for the Pac-10 title in 1993.

The UA has only won six conference championships ever. Arizona’s last conference championship was in 1936 in the Border Conference.

Also, the Wildcats are still College Football Playoff contenders with one week to go.

“We’ve been telling the team, really just every weekend, that we’re in a position to reach just about every goal,” UA football head coach Rich Rodriguez said. “You got a chance to win a championship and that’s pretty neat.”

Arizona moved up to No. 8 in the AP rankings on Sunday. The second to last College Football Playoff rankings will be released Tuesday.

Last year, the Northwestern State band stood in for the Pride of Arizona at the AdvoCare V100 Bowl, but Bryne said the Wildcats will travel like it’s a bowl game — with the band.

“The band will be there, the cheerleaders will be there — actually, the band takes a separate plane, I think bigger than ours; we got to see if we can reverse that, maybe,” Byrne said, laughing. “We’re excited for the band, the cheer, for all that they do to support us and for them to be there and part of it as well.”

The Wildcats have a ticket allotment of 3,500, and they can be purchased on ArizonaWildcats.com. ZonaZoo members can buy up to two tickets for $50 each, and regular prices tickets start at $129 each.

“They were moving pretty decently yesterday,” Byrne said about ticket sales on Sunday. “I haven’t gotten an update today, but we’ve had a lot of inquiries, obviously mostly online, but we’ve had a lot of donors reaching out too, saying, ‘Hey, I want to be there, I want to be a part of this,’ and a lot of them have been in California, too, Southern and Northern California.”

Byrne said he expects Arizona’s “strong alumni base” in Northern California to represent the fan base well.

“We need every Northern California Cat-backer to be there,” Byrne said.

Arizona, as a 24-point underdog, beat then-No. 2 Oregon 31-24 at Autzen Stadium on Oct. 2.

“It’s definitely good for us to have that confidence to know that we can play with the No. 2 team in the nation and that we can beat them,” UA safety Jared Tevis said. “I think that will definitely play a part, but at the same time, we know we’re going to get their best shot. They’re mad that we pulled that win out there in Autzen, so they’re going to be trying to get us.”

This is the first title game held at Levi’s Stadium. The home of the San Francisco 49ers opened this season and cost $1.2 Billion.

The three Pac-12 Championship Games were held at Oregon, Stanford and ASU. The Ducks are 1-0, and the Pac-12 North is 3-0.

Before Arizona’s game against Washington State in late October, Rodriguez said he was worried about finishing the season with six games in a row, but now that it’s seven, he has changed his tune.

“It’s a good seven,” Rodriguez said, laughing.

Grant in trouble

The weekend wasn’t all good news for the Wildcats, as wide receiver Samajie Grant was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence on Saturday morning, according to various reports.

Rodriguez said Grant will not start in the championship game.

“We were notified earlier [Saturday] of an issue involving Samajie Grant,” Rodriguez said in a statement. “After communicating with Samajie, local law enforcement and our athletics administration, we’ve decided that the appropriate form of action is to make sure Samajie receives counseling and takes part in community-service activities. We’re disappointed in Samajie’s decision-making, but we expect this to be an isolated incident, and he won’t be starting in the Pac-12 championship game.”

The Arizona Daily Star reported that Grant, who didn’t have a driver’s license, was cited for driving under the influence of drugs, minor in possession of spirituous liquor, person under 21 in physical control of a motor vehicle with spirituous liquor and driving without a valid operator’s license.

Grant had four catches for 91 yards and two touchdowns in the win over ASU on Friday.

“We’ve been in contact with Samajie, and local law enforcement has informed us that he was cooperative during the process,” Byrne said in a statement. “We’re extremely disappointed in Samajie, and he will be undergoing counseling and taking part in community service as a result of his actions.”

Grant, who is from Compton, Calif., is the UA’s third leading receiver, with 40 catches for 645 yards and five touchdowns.

Recently, the Wildcats lost Nate Phillips, who had 25 catches for 272 yards and two touchdowns in nine games, to a season-ending injury. Saturday night, Grant tweeted a message that said this will be a turning point in his life.

“I will [be] better and stronger this week and most importantly I will never embarrass my family, brothers, and most importantly my Arizona family!” Grant tweeted. “This is a learned lesson and I [can] make a promise my ‘Mom’ who I know is disappointed in me, I will still follow my dreams.”

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Follow James Kelley on Twitter.

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