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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


No. 16 Arizona football vs. ASU preview: Can the Wildcats keep the Territorial Cup for back-to-back seasons?

Mason Kumet
Arizona football freshman linebacker Dominic Hanger gets some practice catches in before the sold out home game against the University of Washington on Saturday, Sept. 30, in Tucson. The Wildcats lost the game 24-31.

The No. 16 Arizona football team is set to face in-state rival ASU in its regular season finale on Saturday, Nov. 25, at 1:30 p.m. at Mountain America Stadium. A victory over the Sun Devils would secure the Wildcats’ first nine-plus win season since 2014, when they posted a 10-4 record, and it would keep them in contention for the Pac-12 Championship game.

However, even if reaching the conference title game proves unattainable, this matchup still carries significance beyond the standings. The winner of this game will claim the prestigious Territorial Cup, currently held by Arizona. Despite the Wildcats currently possessing the trophy, ASU has dominated this matchup in recent years. With a rich history between these two teams, this game promises to be the heated, intense matchup that fans have come to expect.

History vs. ASU

Arizona holds a 50-46-1 all-time record against ASU. When playing in Tempe or Phoenix, the Wildcats are 18-24-1, and they stand at 11-20-1 at Mountain American Stadium formerly known as Sun Devil Stadium. In the last 10 matchups, Arizona holds a record of 3-7.

The Wildcats seek to build on their recent success against ASU. In the most recent encounter on Nov. 25, 2022, in Tucson, Arizona secured a 38-35 victory, marking their first win over the Sun Devils since 2016. This win broke a five-game losing streak against ASU, and it was a close contest decided by a 3-point margin.

The standout player of the 2022 Territorial Cup was running back Michael Wiley, who earned the Bob Moran MVP Award. Wiley‘s impressive performance included rushing for 214 yards and three touchdowns on just 12 carries. Notably, his rushing yardage was the second-highest in Territorial Cup history, trailing only Trung Canidate‘s 288 yards in 1998. Additionally, Wiley‘s three rushing touchdowns tied the record for the most in Territorial Cup history.

ASU’s season

ASU‘s 2023 season has been defined by a quarterback carousel, as redshirt junior Trenton Bourguet assumed the starting role in Week 5 after opening week starter and former four-star freshman Jaden Rashada suffered a knee injury in the second game against Oklahoma State University. Rashada, dealing with a persistent high school injury, was relegated to the bench to recover, and more injuries sidelined backup quarterback and University of Notre Dame transfer Drew Pyne. Bourguet, a Tucson native and the third quarterback to start for ASU this season, has encountered challenges, amassing 1,486 yards, one touchdown and four interceptions, ranking 119th in the nation with a quarterback rating of 109.3.

Standout performances from all-purpose running back Cameron Skattebo, who leads the team in rushing yards (675) and rushing touchdowns (eight) has helped keep the team afloat. He is also third on the team in receiving yards (286), with a ninth score coming through the air. Junior wide receiver Elijhah Badger leads the receiving corps with 713 yards and three touchdowns. In the season opener, the Sun Devils secured a hard-fought victory against Southern Utah University, featuring a promising debut by true freshman Rashada. However, subsequent games, including losses against former-No. 5 USC and the No. 6 University of Oregon, posed challenges.

A significant moment occurred in the Sun DevilsHomecoming game, where ASU secured its first Pac-12 win, defeating Washington State University 38-27. Head coach Kenny Dillingham celebrated his first conference victory as the team gained a season-high 509 yards of offense. The season also witnessed a devastating 55-3 loss against former No. 18 University of Utah, further emphasizing the team’s struggles. Looking ahead, the Sun Devils aim to finish the season on a positive note in their upcoming matchup against Arizona, with the goal of reclaiming the Territorial Cup from the Wildcats.

Wildcats to watch

Arizona‘s offensive prowess is personified by explosive wide receiver Tetairoa McMillan. In standout performances earlier this season against USC and Mississippi State University, McMillan showcased his ability to dismantle defenses, accumulating 138 yards with six receptions against USC and a season-high 161 yards and a touchdown with eight receptions. These mark the only two games McMillan has surpassed 125 yards this season, though he has exceeded 100 yards two other times. His nine touchdown receptions this season are tied for fifth in the Pac-12. With his dynamic playing style, McMillan, alongside his counterpart, wide receiver Jacob Cowing, has formed a historic duo as the first pair in program history to simultaneously enter the top 10 in single-season touchdown receptions. McMillan also leads the Wildcats in receiving yards this season with 976, good for third in the conference, further emphasizing his impact on the team.

Senior wide receiver Cowing stands as a pillar of consistency for the Wildcats. His impressive 55-game streak of catching passes establishes him as a dependable and enduring force on the field. He remains deadlocked, one game behind Coastal Carolina University’s Sam Pinckney who has played in 56 career games and recorded a catch in all of them, with one more game to play. They both moved past previous record holder Bryan Anderson (54 games) from Central Michigan University this season.

Cowing‘s career statistics sit at a remarkable 4,168 yards (1,573 at Arizona) and 30 receiving touchdowns, 10 of which came this season, leading the team and good for fourth in the conference. These impressive numbers further solidify his standing as one of the elite players in the nation. The veteran receiver not only maintains his reputation as a reliable target but also emerges as a record-chaser, currently trailing only Zakhari Franklin (38) from the University of Mississippi in active players for career receiving touchdowns.

Sophomore linebacker Jacob Manu is the defensive backbone for the Wildcats, boasting an impressive 98 total tackles, which leads the conference. As he nears the coveted 100-tackle mark, Manu could become the first Wildcat to achieve this feat since Collin Schooler in 2018. Schooler‘s achievement earned him AP All-Pac-12 First Team recognition. Manu‘s defensive prowess extends to interceptions, sharing the team lead with one. As he heads into the Territorial Cup, Manu‘s defensive contributions will be critical, and his performance could cement his place among the select few in Arizona football history to surpass 100 tackles in a single season.

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