UA challenges ASU in Tucson looking to win back-to-back Territorial Cup games.
The rivalry game carries a lot of pressure for both head coaches. UA coach Rich Rodriguez tried to downplay the magnitude of the game.
“We prepare for every game with the same focus and intensity, and we’ll be doing the same against Arizona State,” Rodriguez said. “After I got hired, I heard about the rivalry from all the fans and alumni during the off-season. We’re really just treating this game like any other game, but of course, there will be a lot more attention because of the rivalry.”
To the players, however, the rivalry holds a lot more meaning. UA sophomore running back Ka’Deem Carey is a native of Tucson and has been around the rivalry his entire life.
“It’s a big game, and it’s a big deal to bring the Territorial Cup home,” Carey said.
In the past couple years of the Territorial Cup, the teams’ records did not matter at all. The last two years, the team with the worst record ended up winning the game.
Surprisingly, the teams have had similar seasons this year.
The No. 24 Wildcats (7-4, 4-4 Pac-12) have a slight upper hand with one more win and upsets over USC and No. 21 Oklahoma State, but the two rivals have a lot in common.
Both started the season with new coaches pushing their new teams in new directions. Both have had success by becoming bowl eligible. Both coaches have also worked together in the past.
This game will now separate which Arizona team is farther along on the path of rebuilding.
Rodriguez knows separating themselves will not be an easy task.
First, UA will have to shut down the new ASU (6-5, 4-4 Pac-12) offense. ASU offensive coordinator Mike Norvell has made a lot changes to the Sun Devils’ scheme, which Rodriguez said present a challenge.
“They do some similar stuff that we do, along with (some) different things,” Rodriguez said. “They have deep pass plays, play action stuff and run-pass stuff where you think the quarterback is running then throw it out late to the wide receiver or slot receiver. They do shifts, motions and have different formations. In a really short week, we have a lot of work to do on defense.”
There’s one thing that concerns Rodriguez and the Wildcat’s offense: ASU’s pressure.
The Sun Devils defensive front knows how to make the quarterback sweat. The ASU attack is led by redshirt junior defensive tackle Will Sutton with 10.5 sacks, and redshirt sophomore Carl Bradford with 9.5.
ASU coach Todd Graham likes to send extra defenders to bring pressure.
“They also bring pressure without blitzing,” Rodriguez said. “In the last game, they had a three-man rush which brought a lot of pressure. They are a big pressure team. They are able to get pressure without bringing extra guys, and that is a big concern for us.”
Reach the reporter at email@example.com