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Penalty issues plaguing both Arizona, ASU going into Territorial Cup

arizona-wildcats-asu-sun-devils-penalties-jedd-fisch-herm-edwards-2021-territorial-cup Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The last two Territorial Cup games have seen Arizona and ASU wear their home jerseys, making for a great color matchup. The blue vs. maroon made for a great visual palette, and the hope is that will be the case again this Saturday.

But a third color—bright yellow—may end up being most prevalent color due to each team’s propensity for drawing penalty flags.

Arizona has been flagged 93 times this season, including 11 times in last Friday’s 44-18 loss at Washington State. One night later ASU was penalized 10 times in a 24-10 loss at Oregon State, bringing its season total to 97.

The Sun Devils are the fourth-most penalized team in FBS, with Arizona sixth in that category. It’s the most penalties for ASU since 2012, most for Arizona since 2018.

“Very frustrating,” UA coach Jedd Fisch said on Monday. “Different type penalties each week. Sometimes you have a boat and a hole comes out and you kind of fill that hole and then another hole comes over here and you’re like, wait, where’d that one come from, why is there water filling in over here now?”

For the UA, the penalty problem looked like it was going away after it was flagged just five times for 33 yards against Utah. Then came the WSU game, where not only did that number more than double but the vast majority were on offense and weren’t for the normal infractions.

“We’ve had two games with no offensive penalties, now we had offense and special teams penalties,” Fisch said. “We haven’t had wide receivers have false starts, I think, since Week 2, and then we had three of them in this game.”

Arizona committed four offensive penalties on one drive early against Wazzu, part of a stretch in which Fisch said his team made roughly 20 errors on the first 22 plays of the game.

“I don’t know why they occurred on Friday night,” he said. “I certainly know we talk about penalties a lot. I certainly know we emphasize it. We talk about it daily, we emphasize it daily, but sometimes it just hasn’t happened yet. The same thing with how we haven’t gotten those penalties down, but we need to.”

As for ASU, it has three games with at least 13 penalties and against OSU it was called for seven false starts including twice on back-to-back plays.

“It is just concentration, it’s as simple as that,” ASU coach Herm Edwards said. “We practice it, we have the loud music, we do everything, we go to a silent count. We have to do a better job of concentrating, that’s all I can do I can’t do anymore. I can’t coach it, you practice it and that’s what you do, you practice that you don’t false start.”

Since 2000 the most-flagged Territorial Cup came in 2002, when Arizona was penalized 12 times for 100 yards and ASU 11 for 96 in a 34-20 ASU win in Tucson. The Wildcats led that game 20-13 midway through the third quarter before giving up 21 unanswered.