The Territorial Cup will be staying in Tucson for the first time since 2016 following ASU's 38-35 loss to UA on Friday afternoon at Arizona Stadium. The loss serves as a disappointing end to an already disappointing season for the Sun Devils.
The Sun Devils struggled in the first quarter, their only two drives ending with a punt and an interception. They were able to take a 14-10 lead in the second quarter with touchdowns from graduate student running back Xazavian Valladay and redshirt sophomore wide receiver Elijhah Badger.
Although the game remained close until the end, the Sun Devils struggled with fumbles in the second half. Freshman running back Tevin White fumbled at the UA 21-yard line with just under five minutes left in the third quarter. UA took control and a 72-yard rush by junior running back Michael Wiley put the Wildcats up 31-21 with four minutes remaining. A touchdown from Valladay with one second left in the quarter put the lead within reach at 31-28 to start the final quarter.
The Sun Devils forced the Wildcats to punt on their first drive of the fourth quarter and quickly grabbed a touchdown on a catch by redshirt sophomore tight end Jalin Conyers to take a 35-31 lead. However, the Wildcats quickly retaliated to take the lead back at 38-35 with just under nine minutes remaining.
The Sun Devils' next drive ended with redshirt junior quarterback Trenton Bourguet fumbling the ball after being sacked for the second time. UA took control but turned the ball over after the fourth down. The Sun Devils took their final shot at the game with a minute and a half remaining, but an interception by redshirt freshman safety Isaiah Taylor at the 50 sealed the game for the Wildcats.
The excitement continued despite the loss essentially ensured for the Sun Devils as a fight broke out on the field. Five players were ejected for offsetting unsportsmanlike conduct penalties to end the game and give the Wildcats the Territorial Cup.
The duel in the desert is the oldest rivalry in college football, dating back to 1899 when ASU, known as the Normal School beat Arizona 11-2. The rivalry became especially contentious when ASU wanted to transition to an official university, a change Wildcat students and alumni opposed. In 1958, the change was put to a statewide vote, passed and ASU won in a 47-0 blowout game.
The Sun Devils' five turnovers on the night allowed the Wildcats to sneak to a close win for their first Territorial Cup win since 2016.
ASU's receiving kept it in the game with 376 total yards. Senior wide receiver Giovanni Sanders led the team in receiving yards with 120 and had the most all-purpose yards for the Sun Devils. Badger and Conyers rounded out the top receiving performers for the Sun Devils with 92 and 76 yards respectively. Sanders, Badger and Conyers each grabbed one touchdown.
Bourguet outperformed UA sophomore quarterback Jayden de Laura with a 76% completion rate, completing 37 of 49 attempts for 376 yards and three touchdown passes. De Laura only completed 52% of attempts for 200 yards and no touchdowns. Bourguet's passing performance was not enough to keep up with the Wildcats.
Valladay rushed for 97 yards and two touchdowns on the night to finish his collegiate career. ASU's rushing struggled against the UA defense, only rushing for 161 total yards. The Wildcats rushed for 280 total yards on the night.
ASU interim head coach Shaun Aguano was emotional after what could be his final game as head coach after an early season coaching change put him at the helm of what some characterized as a sinking ship. Aguano took the reins after Herm Edwards parted ways and led the Sun Devils to a 2-7 record.
"We didn't get it done, so there's going to be a lot of disappointed people in me for not bringing back that Territorial Cup, and I'll take that, and I'm good with that," Aguano said in a postgame press conference. "But I love those kids in that room."
The Sun Devils end the season with a 3-9 record and .250 win percentage, their worst since going 2-7-2 with a .180 win percentage in 1946. The team will likely have a different look next season as it is set to lose Valladay, the team's leading rusher and scorer, and will likely face more coaching changes and other hurdles as the NCAA investigation into the team's recruiting processes is rumored to be finishing soon.
Edited by Piper Hansen.
Kathryn Field is a sports editor at The State Press. Kathryn has previously worked as a full time reporter at The State Press, covering women’s basketball and lacrosse.