ASU football will play in the annual Territorial Cup game against UA Saturday to cap off an up and down season despite being guaranteed to finish with a winning record.
Although much of the season was canceled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, ASU decimated UA last year by a score of 70-7. This season, however, is especially sentimental for the team's seniors and fifth-year seniors, as this is their last chance to play together at Sun Devil Stadium.
"One of the big things I always remember, I just see Chase (Lucas) running, you know, Chase running with the Territorial Cups, and that's always a great thing," redshirt junior defensive end Michael Matus said.
Matus said due to last year's COVID protocols, the younger players on the team never got to experience what it was like to practice in the week leading up to the game against UA.
"For me, it was watching, you know, N'Keal (Harry), Manny (Wilkins), even Chase, I could just see how serious they took practice that week," Matus said.
After last week's loss against Oregon State and Utah's win over No. 11 Oregon, ASU was knocked out of Pac-12 Championship game contention. ASU did qualify for a bowl game, but after last week's loss, the team lost its opportunity to play in a New Year's Six bowl game.
ASU has won the last four Territorial Cup matchups and hopes to secure its fifth in a row on Saturday. ASU has beaten UA 44 times since the start of the Territorial Cup in 1899. For head coach Herm Edwards, it is important for the players to understand the history between the two schools.
"I think of the players that have been here over the course of my tenure, you feel it from them," Edwards said. "You understand how important it is and ... Sunday when the players came in, we talked about the rivalry, the cup, we'll talk about it all week. We'll go back and show them the history it is and how far it goes back and we'll have some former players come talk to them as well."
Lucas, a graduate student defensive back, recently broke the record for the most career starts in ASU football history, and in his final year with the team will look to gain another Territorial Cup win before he passes his leadership down to the younger players on the team.
"It's a system, it's a culture that has helped him with that, and it's good for the young guys to see, because he's going to have to pass the torch to somebody else," Edwards said. "There's some guys in the wings waiting. When you think about him and Jack (Jones), they're going to leave, and so all of a sudden, get some young corners that are watching these guys practice every day and then watching Chase, especially cause he's been here. He knows the history better than anybody because he's been here so long."
Junior offensive lineman LaDarius Henderson echoed a similar sentiment to Edwards, stressing the importance of a win over UA, as it is many of the seniors' last chance to play in a rivalry game.
"I mean, I think they (UA) are a lot better team than their record," Henderson said. "I think they have some impactful players and ... it's a rivalry game, this is a game that we need to play really good in. (For) some of our seniors, it's their last times playing in this stadium, so I think this is an extremely important game."
With it being the final regular season game for the Sun Devils and the final home game for many of the seniors on the team, ASU has high hopes for the rivalry game against UA, which is set to start on Saturday at 2 p.m. MST in Tempe.
"I think it's a tremendous opportunity that we have ahead of us," Henderson said. "I think it means a lot more not just only for the people in this locker room, but for the people who played five years ago, 10 years ago, they didn't get to experience this, they didn't get to have the opportunity. So for us to be able to accomplish that, it's like we can accomplish that for us and them."
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