In prepping for the biggest game of the year, yours truly is checking in with a daily rewind on great moments in the rivalry. It's only fitting that the final season of the Mike Stoops' era look back on the first. The 2011 Wildcats face Arizona State with a 2-8 record that mirrors the '04 team.
An easy way to salvage a bad season at Arizona is to win the Territorial Cup. Covering the football program for The Daily Wildcat in Mike Stoops' second year, I'll never forget running back Mike Bell telling me, "This is our bowl game."
The year prior, the Wildcats certainly played that way. The 2011 team can look to 2004, the first induction.
To say 2011 was a dismal disappointment would be an understatement. The program's three-year run of bowl appearances ended, on Homecoming no less. Stoops' unceremonious ouster a month ago closed his tenure the way it began, with plenty of near-misses. But that first season closed with a hallmark win, the first in a run of November upsets that lasted through 2009.
ASU came to Tucson in Stoops' initial campaign No. 18 in the Associated Press poll, and playing for the Holiday Bowl behind quarterback Andrew Walter. The Sun Devils' senior threw 30 touchdowns in the 10 games leading to the Duel, a pace better than that of eventual Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinart and finalist Alex Smith.
Walter's bi-coastal ambitions -- the Holiday Bowl in San Diego and Heisman presentation in New York City -- rested on a big day in the Old Pueblo. The Wildcats weren't about to roll over to a powerful Sun Devil bench, though.
UA set the tone early, shutting down Walter and the ASU offense with a pair of one-yard goal line stops in the first half. The Wildcat defense blitzed Walter frequently, and the hits added up. Walter could not develop a rhythm, and ended the day after Thanksgiving without a touchdown. But what made Walter's Friday even more black was that in the second half, a big shot ended his game and ASU career.
Meanwhile, the Wildcat offense began clicking at a level it hadn't all season with its own reserve quarterback Richard Kovalcheck behind center. UA rolled off a 31-7 run spanning early second quarter to mid fourth.
UA staved off a Sun Devil rally effort with Sam Keller in at quarterback, the secondary pressuring receiver Matt Miller into a drop on a would-be fourth down conversion attempt on ASU's final possession. A defensive play sealing it was only fitting, as the 27 points with which ASU finished were the fewest the Sun Devils had in every outing but its two previous losses to Cal and USC.