The Arizona Wildcats will meet the Arizona State Sun Devils on the gridiron Saturday for the 92nd edition of the Territorial Cup, continuing what is the oldest rivalry trophy game in college football.
This rivalry has had no shortage of drama throughout the years, so it got us thinking about our favorite moments.
You can read about them below, and we’d love to hear yours in the comment section below.
Brian J. Pedersen
As the elder statesman of this group (*sigh*) I’m going much farther back in Territorial Cup history for my fondest memory. Back to my college years, which began in 1994 with Arizona being ranked No. 1 by Sports Illustrated and ended in 1998 with the Wildcats putting together their best season in school history.
In that five-year span the Territorial Cup stayed in Tucson four times. The only exception was 1996, when ASU bulldozed the Wildcats 56-28 at Arizona Stadium to clinch its only Rose Bowl appearance.
And how is this considered a “fond” memory? Not because of the game itself, but what happened after. Or, rather, what didn’t happen.
That season, ASU fans had taken to tearing down the goal post at Sun Devil Stadium whenever possible and carrying it over to Mill Avenue as part of their postgame celebrations. This started with an upset of two-time defending national champion Nebraska and continued throughout the year.
So after beating the Wildcats, ASU fans tried to add the Arizona Stadium goal post to their list. Emphasis on “tried.”
I was back in my dorm, watching from the windows in the study hall as the north goalpost swayed back and forth. But it never fell. Seven weeks later, ASU lost to Ohio State to fall short of an unbeaten season. Good times.
I grew up in the wasteland known as Maryland, where catching any Pac-10 game was virtually impossible. My father is an Arizona alum, so he ponied up the big bucks for the Fox Sports college sports bundle, which allowed me to catch the standard definition shitshow that was college sports in the early 21st century.
The earliest Territorial Cup I remember was in 2004, when Mike Bell torched ASU for 139 yards in a 34-27 Arizona victory. I honestly had no recollection who Arizona’s QB was, until I looked at the game’s box score and realized that some dude named Richard Kovalcheck tossed three TD passes in the win. I really picked this game because it’s the only one I remember seeing on TV growing up, though the 2016 game was pretty neat as well (Lest we forget that Arizona won that game without attempting a pass in the contest’s latter half.)
I was on the other side of the rivalry for all of my childhood up until about 2011 when I knew I was going to Arizona so I’m really only limited to about three wins in that span, but those three are pretty great.
But regardless, the 2014 Territorial Cup is my all-time favorite game I’ve ever watched in person.
The top three loudest moments in Arizona Stadium that I have ever heard was 2010 Iowa after Trevin Wade’s pick six, 2015 UCLA after Anu Solomon hit Nate Phillips over the middle for a 7-0 lead with College GameDay in town, and then 2014 ASU with Scooby Wright’s strip sack that led to an Anthony Lopez scoop-and-score.
Capping that day off with a Pac-12 South Championship was a dream. We thought this was the
My Territorial Cup memories are limited since I didn’t start watching Arizona Football until a few years ago (gasp!)
The 2014 game is my favorite because it capped a great season. That game was fun and had memorable plays. It also gave (short-lived) hope that the program was heading in the right direction.
Scooby Wright sealed his legend status that game and I thought we’d have years of Rich Rod vs Todd Graham going at it, but here we are now.
Much like Brian above, though I’m considerably younger, I have a ton of T-Cup memories. Ranging from 2016 where the ‘Cats stomped ASU at home without attempting a pass in the second half to 1993 where Dan White led the ‘Cats to 27 points in the second half. 2016 was probably the most dominating rushing performance I’ve seen. 1993’s T-Cup win gave the ‘Cats a share of the Pac-10 title and they went on to destroy Miami 29-0 in the Fiesta Bowl.
My favorite T-Cup game has to be 2014. Here’s why: Scooby Wright destroying Talyor Kelly with a strip-sack and then Anthony Lopez with the scoop-and-score. I also remember Samajie Grant’s amazing 70-yard TD catch and run where he made the Sun Devil defense look like fools. Nick Wilson was an absolute beast.
Territorial Cup week is one of my favorite weeks of the year.
The 2014 game is an obvious choice simply given the high stakes. However, I’m going to deviate from the beaten path and say 2011 has to be in the discussion in the same way 2016 should be. In the 2011 matchup, ASU entered the game with a two game losing streak after reaching a 6-2 mark through their first eight games. Little did the Sun Devils know that this two game losing streak would extend to five games and they would finish the season 6-7.
In the sports world, there are very few things worse than listening to arrogant Sun Devil fans when they are outperforming their expectations (like last season’s undefeated record in non-conference play for basketball). That 6-2 mark in 2011 was one of those times.
UA entered the game 2-8 and Mike Stoops had already been relieved of his coaching duties. The Wildcats were one season removed from their unimaginable collapse from a 7-1 start that saw them end the 2010 season with a five game losing streak. In other words, the state of the program was in shambles.
ASU was one of the five losses to finish out the 2010 season which made UA’s contribution to their five game losing streak to end 2011 that much sweeter. The victory included overcoming a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter to win 31-27 in Tempe. This was actually the last time Arizona has won in Tempe and it was probably the most unlikely scenario of this century.
The 2008 game stands out for me. Arizona broke a three-game losing streak to ASU with a 31-10 win and it was also UA’s seventh win of the season, officially ending a decade-long bowl-less streak.
Arizona actually trailed 5-6 ASU by three points at the half, but completely dominated the second half by outscoring the Sun Devils, 24-0.
It turned out to be Rob Gronkowski’s penultimate game in an Arizona uniform and he made it count, hauling in six passes for 95 yards and a touchdown. I vividly remember one play in which he caught a pass over the middle and effortlessly brushed off several Sun Devils as he scampered for a big gain.
But it wasn’t a one-man show. Mike Thomas had nine catches and returned a punt for a touchdown, Nic Grigsby ran for over 100 yards, and Willie Tuitama nearly threw for 300 yards as he finally outdueled Rudy Carpenter, who had a nightmarish game, highlighted by a pair of big sacks by Brooks Reed and a pick by Marquis Hundley.
To me, that win signaled that Arizona was finally past the fallout from the John Mackovic era. The Wildcats won two of the next three Territorial Cups after that and have reached a bowl game nearly every year since.