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Football Notes: Wildcats understand rivalry stakes

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Tyler Baker

Arizona running back Terris Jones-Grigsby (24) fights through a tackle from Colorado linebacker Addison Gillam (44) during Arizona’s crushing 38-20 win against Colorado at Arizona Stadium on Nov. 8. In the midst of rivalry week, the Arizona football team understands what’s at stake this Friday.

More than the usual bragging rights are at stake when Arizona football hosts ASU in the annual Territorial Cup rivalry game.

No. 12 Arizona hosts No. 13 ASU on Friday with the archrivals both being 9-2 and 6-2 in the Pac-12 Conference. The winner will take the Pac-12 South Championship if Stanford beats No. 9 UCLA.

“This is an easy week to get our guys focused and excited to play,” UA head coach Rich Rodriguez said. “I would be shocked if our preparation isn’t at an all-time high.”

Rodriguez said he doesn’t get tired of talking about ASU, and that the game will be bigger because it is in-state and in-conference and division.

“Those that say, ‘If you only win one game, but you beat ASU, it would be a great year,’ I don’t believe that at all,” Rodriguez said. 

“But is it the most important game on our schedule? Sure, because it’s the rivalry game.”

ASU has beaten Arizona twice in a row.

“It’s a tough-nosed rivalry,” UA safety Jared Tevis said. “A lot of people outside the state don’t really know about it, so I think it is a little bit underrated, but there’s definitely a bit of hatred for the opponent on both sides and it’s a pretty historic rivalry. … It has all the components to make it a great rivalry, so it should be a fun game.”

According to a study performed by Joe Cobbs of Northern Kentucky and David Tyler of Western Carolina, the Arizona-ASU rivalry is the most intense in the country. Cobbs and Tyler surveyed fans, according to The Arizona Republic, and the Territorial Cup ranked ahead of No. 2 Ohio State-Michigan, No. 3 Toledo-Bowling Green, No. 4 Utah-BYU and No. 5 Central Michigan-Western Michigan.

“Not surprising, again, because it’s not only in the same conference and same division, but it is in the same state,” Rodriguez said when asked about the study.

The UCLA and Stanford game will start at the same time as the Territorial Cup, and Rodriguez said the Wildcats won’t be scoreboard watching.

“There won’t be any updates in Arizona Stadium, other than [the UA] and ASU,” Rodriguez said. “You can get it on your iPad and your computer and your phone, but there will be no updates on our school board or our ticker. Our focus better be all on ASU, and I think it will be.”

Freshman phenom 
The accolades continued to roll in for UA freshman running back Nick Wilson.

On Sunday, Athlon Sports named Wilson national freshman of the week.

On Monday, the Pac-12 announced that Wilson won Offensive Player of the Week and that junior punter Drew Riggleman won Special Teams Player of the Week. Riggleman punted seven times for an average of 52 yards in Arizona’s 42-10 win at Utah.

Wilson ran for 218 yards, the ninth most in UA single-game history and the highest ever for a freshman against the Utes.

Wilson has rushed for 1,085 yards this season, the 13th most in school history and the 15th 1,000-yard rushing season in UA history.

Wilson said he was surprised by his success, but credited the other running backs, associate head coach/co-offensive coordinator/running backs Calvin Magee, Rodriguez and the linemen for helping him.

“I think I got pretty lucky as far as my path to success,” Wilson said.

Wilson’s 12 rushing touchdowns are the most for a UA freshman and seventh highest in school history.

The rookie has rushed for over 100 yards the last three games.

Quarterback question remains unanswered

As expected, Rodriguez didn’t give an update on injured Arizona quarterback Anu Solomon at his weekly press conference.

Rodriguez, who doesn’t talk about ailments until the injury report is released two days before games, said “Good try,” when asked for an update about Solomon.

Solomon tops Arizona’s weekly depth chart this week at quarterback, backed up by Jesse Scroggins, Jerrard Randall and Connor Brewer.

“Anu has been banged up for several weeks now and he’s trying to fight through it,” Rodriguez said. “If he can’t go, then we’re going with Jesse and Jerrard and Connor and the rest of the guys.”

Scroggins, Randall and Brewer are all co-listed as second, but Scroggins came in first to relieve Solomon on Saturday.

“He played solid,” Rodriguez said. “I thought he made a couple of nice throws under pressure. He went in there and was composed and was seeing the field the way we wanted him to.”

Scroggins, who had only played against UNLV and Washington State, came in and went 3-for-5 for 64 yards, including a 43-yard pass.

“I think he gave the team some confidence too, which was a nice boost,” Rodriguez said.

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Follow James Kelley on Twitter.

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