Arizona Football

ASU’s veteran team too much for Arizona Wildcats in Territorial Cup rout


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Todd Graham

Todd Graham

Random thoughts while wondering if Todd Graham invited Dennis Erickson over for Thanksgiving this week because of the roster he left the second-year ASU coach. …

Give Graham credit for beating Arizona significantly 58-21 at Sun Devil Stadium Saturday night with Erickson holdovers and notable JC recruits Graham signed such as receiver Jaelen Strong and linebacker Chris Young. ASU is loaded for bear now and that translates to its 10-2 record and opportunity to play in the Rose Bowl.

You could see it coming with nine seniors on defense led by tackle Will Sutton. Arizona countered with five seniors on defense, only four of whom where holdovers from the Mike Stoops regime. Experience matters especially in these rivalry games.

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No fights. No pushing and shoving or outbreaks of dislike were evident in a game in which we’ve seen many times. The Pac-12 Networks cameras did not catch any of it if it happened. One time in the second half, after Ka’Deem Carey blocked Sutton and both fell to the ground. Carey patted Sutton on the helmet with a friendly gesture after they stood.

That’s what you get from two disciplined teams. ASU and Arizona are the least penalized teams in the Pac-12. Arizona had only two penalties for 15 yards and ASU four for 20. The Wildcats had only one penalty for 15 yards (a personal foul call on Shaquille Richardson) last year in ASU’s 41-34 in Tucson.

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Don’t fret Arizona. The Wildcats, who come away bitterly angry from such defeats, have history on their side after lopsided outcomes against their arch-rivals.

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Larry Smith

Larry Smith

After losing 44-7 against ASU at Arizona Stadium in 1980 — the worst loss of the Larry Smith era — Smith carried a personal vendetta against the Sun Devils. Smith placed an impacting emphasis on the rivalry with his players. Two years later “The Streak”, Arizona’s nine-year unbeaten run against ASU, began in earnest.

After ASU ended “The Streak” in 1991 with a 37-14 victory in Tempe — one in which coach Larry Marmie inexcusably faked a punt late in the game — the Wildcats’ fire was rekindled. The Wildcats lost 7-6 the following year in Tucson but then won three consecutive games against ASU, the longest streak of victories since “The Streak”.

That streak was ended by a 56-14 drubbing by Rose Bowl-bound ASU at Arizona Stadium in 1996. The following year, the Wildcats (5-5) defeated 12th-ranked ASU 28-16 in Tempe. Arizona won again in 1998 50-42 at Arizona Stadium to finish 11-1 in the regular season.

Smith and Tomey were sincere about the rivalry. Rich Rodriguez must feel some of the hurt Smith and Tomey felt losing to the team up north. …

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B.J. Denker

B.J. Denker

For the last two years Arizona has started a senior quarterback — Matt Scott and B.J. Denker — with their last season being their only one as a consistent starter. Both had miserable performances against ASU.

Scott threw three interceptions and completed only 19 of 39 passes for 230 yards in last year’s loss. Denker also threw three interceptions, one that was returned for a touchdown, and completed only 15 of 30 passes for 175 yards without a touchdown. Combined, Scott and Denker were 34 of 69 (49.2 percent) for 405 yards, six interceptions and three touchdowns against the Sun Devils.

Neither can gain redemption against ASU for their mistakes. Denker becomes the seventh UA first-year starting quarterback to lose his initial game against ASU in the Pac-10/12 era, following Jim Krohn (1978), Tom Tunnicliffe (1980), Keith Smith (1996), Kris Heavner (2003) and Willie Tuitama (2006) and Scott (2012).

Krohn, Tunnicliffe, Smith and Tuitama had more opportunities against the Sun Devils. Their record in those games: 5-3.

Next season a different Arizona quarterback will get his first shot against ASU, attempting to beat the Sun Devils on his initial try like Alfred Jenkins, Ron Veal, George Malauulu, Dan White, Ortege Jenkins, Jason Johnson, Richard Kovalcheck and Nick Foles.

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WILDABOUTAZCATS.net publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He also writes articles for Bleacher Report, Lindy’s College Sports and TucsonCitizen.com.

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