ASU football sets sights on Territorial Cup

The Sun Devils are preparing for a short week and a showdown with their archrival in Tucson

ASU football has shifted its focus from a dreary night in Seattle and a loss to Washington to speaking of a potential victory in Tucson for the first time since 2012 – head coach Todd Graham's first year with the program.

"Obviously, our total focus is on keeping that cup here in Tempe," Graham said at his weekly press conference Monday afternoon. "To our guys and our fans, we understand how important this game is, and we're excited to compete this week."

Graham said that having been on both sides of the West Virginia-Pittsburgh "Backyard Brawl" gave him a taste of a regional rivalry in his one season as head coach of the Panthers, and in two seasons at West Virginia, as the linebackers coach. He became the defensive coordinator under Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez, who was the head coach of the Mountaineers from 2001 to 2007. 

But for him, and many across the state of Arizona, nothing compares to the game in which the nation's oldest rivalry trophy is awarded to the winner.

"I can tell you that there aren't any fans more passionate than ours are about this game," Graham said. "It goes back a long time, and it runs deep. It's the most intense rival game that I've been a part of."

Even though the Wildcats (2-9, 0-8 Pac-12) are at their weakest point in the Rodriguez era, with a chance to finish winless in conference play, there isn't any less animosity between the two schools.

"Our program is always going to be about competing for championships," Graham said. "But this is a must-win on our schedule. There's a lot of emotion in this game, and it's that type of battle." 

With the shortened week and Thanksgiving holiday, ASU's practice schedule has been adjusted. 

The Sun Devils did a walkthrough Monday, and after regular practices Tuesday and Wednesday, ASU will plan another walkthrough Thursday that will be closed to media before departing for Tucson.  

Injury updates 

Graham said redshirt freshman defensive lineman Jalen Bates, who was helped off the field before the Washington game, is out for the season. Graham added that the loss of redshirt sophomore Sam Jones on the offensive line has been "one of the most critical" and that his status would be clearer after practice tomorrow.

Also missing the Territorial Cup are redshirt freshman offensive lineman Zach Robertson and redshirt junior wide receiver Cameron Smith. Graham said he is hopeful that redshirt freshman defensive lineman George Lea, redshirt senior offensive lineman Stephon McCray and redshirt sophomore wide receiver Jalen Harvey will play. 

Graham added that redshirt senior cornerback De'Chavon "Gump" Hayes "should be OK," and senior wide receiver Fred Gammage will be assessed after the coaching staff has an opportunity to "see how he moves around" at practice Tuesday.

Redshirt senior linebacker Marcus Ball was a late scratch at Washington, and Graham expects him to play at Arizona. 


Reach the reporter at smodrich@asu.edu or follow @StefanJModrich on Twitter.

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