The Arizona Wildcats (4-7, 2-6) were officially eliminated from bowl contention last week, after they were destroyed by the No. 6 Utah Utes 35-7 in what was an embarrassing sixth straight loss for the program.
Now, this weekend’s rivalry game against Arizona State (6-5, 3-5) in Tempe, is more about the Wildcats’ personal pride than anything else.
We caught up with the Wildcats on Tuesday ahead of this weekend’s Territorial Cup, and discussed the rivalry, what they’ve seen from the Sun Devils, sending the team’s seniors out on a high, and more.
Here’s the best of what was said.
Arizona defensive lineman Finton Connolly on playing his last game as a Wildcats in his hometown and against ASU: “It’s always special, going there playing in Tempe, playing those guys. The atmosphere is always great, the fans are always going crazy, so I love playing there and I love playing them there, especially in my last game ever in college football. So I’m excited.”
Connolly on what makes ASU an effective running team: “They’ve got a good offensive front. They’re young guys, they’re big and they’ve got a solid group right there. Plus they’ve got a big back who’s been great there. I’m looking forward to playing against him.”
Connolly on what the defense needs to do to be successful this weekend: “The biggest thing as a D-line is just to do our job, that’s number one as always. Just stop the offense on third downs and get a pass rush and get sacks so we can get our offense on the field and they can score touchdowns.”
Connolly on what it would mean to end his career with a win against Arizona State: “That’s like my bowl game right there, to beat those guys and have the Territorial Cup back home in Tucson would be very special.”
Arizona defensive end Jalen Harris on if he was surprised initially at how big the Arizona-ASU rivalry is: “Yeah, last year was my first year really playing in it, and it was my first time realizing how big it was and how much the fans are into it and how intense it is.”
Harris on how the Territorial Cup compares to other big games he’s played in: “I think it’s up there. Arizona vs. ASU that’s a big game and we’re both teams that will bring it so it’s a good game for sure.”
Harris on sending the seniors out with a win against ASU: “That’s very important. We haven’t had success of lately, so I think it’s important we send those guys out right.”
Harris on the keys to a big defensive performance this week: “Studying what they’re doing, knowing their tendencies, and I think we need to focus on what they’re doing and making sure we all do our job.”
Harris on ASU’s strengths as an offense: “I would say running the ball. Their running back is a very great player and they have a good young quarterback too who can run and throw. He can do all of it, so I think it’s important we focus on them
Arizona linebacker Anthony Pandy on if he knew growing up in California just how intense the UA-ASU rivalry is: “No, not before I got here. I realized like freshman year how intense and how personal it is. Everyone takes it way more personal than every other team in the Pac.”
Pandy on the importance of sending the departing seniors out with a big win: “That’s a big deal to us, we’re playing this last game especially for our seniors.”
Pandy on if he thinks this will be the last time he plays with his fellow linebackers, Colin Schooler and Tony Fields Jr: “I don’t think that at all. I mean, whatever happens, happens and everyone has their own personal goals, but I don’t think that at all.”
Arizona wide receiver Jamarye Joiner on playing in the Territorial Cup as someone who grew up in Tucson: “It’s different as a player just because it’s a little bit more personal. You’re playing in the game and you want to show out for your town, and you want to show out for your city.”
Joiner on ASU’s defense: “They have a lot of athletes, they’re well rounded and they capitalize on the offense’s mistakes a majority of the time. They’ve got six picks from six different players, so that says a lot about their defense.”
Joiner on if he’s noticed a more focused energy at practice in preparation for this weekend’s rivalry game: “We’re always competitive, so I can’t really say it’s different in that aspect. Just more focused on not putting our seniors out on a bad note.”
Joiner on getting a win to end the season for the Wildcats’ departing seniors: “It’s important for them just because we didn’t give them the season they wanted. So just ending out the season and bringing back the cup to Tucson, that’s just a really big deal and it’s something that I want to personally give to them.”
Joiner on preparing to play the Sun Devil’s right after their upset of Oregon: “We don’t really focus on, ‘oh, they just beat Oregon,” or anything like that. We’re just like, that’s our next opponent and we’re going to prepare and we’re going to go out there and play our game.”
Joiner on what it would mean personally for him to beat Arizona State: “It would mean a lot just because this is Arizona and we want to own Arizona. When you go to a rivalry game, you want to own your state and you want to win that game. So just win that game, to bring the cup back to Tucson, it would mean a lot to me being a Tucson local.”