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Arizona must keep emotions in check when ‘spirited’ rivalry with ASU resumes

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Emotions can always run high in football, regardless of the situation or opponent. That was broadcast for all to see last week when quarterback Jayden de Laura and receiver Dorian Singer had a heated exchange on the sideline during the first half of the 31-20 home loss to Washington State.

“I feel like it could have been way better,” de Laura, who was facing his former team, said of his and the team’s emotions in that loss. “Obviously, there’s something that me and Dorian didn’t agree about, and then like two minutes after we were fine. Now he leads the Pac-12 in receiving yards, I’m pretty sure.”

The level of passion on Friday figures to be exponentially higher when Arizona and ASU meet for the Territorial Cup. The Sun Devils (3-8, 2-6 Pac-12) have won five in a row over the Wildcats (4-7, 2-6) including the embarrassing 70-7 result the last time the game was played in Tucson in 2020.

UA offensive coordinator Brennan Carroll wasn’t around for that game, but he did experience the Due in the Desert rivalry for the first time last November in Tempe. His assessment?

“This one’s pretty chippy,” he said. “It was spirited.”

The Territorial Cup has had its fair share of tense moments and fever-driven actions. Last year saw receiver Dorian Singer get ejected for “flagrant” unsportsmanlike conduct in the second half for something that wasn’t shown on TV but which afterward was described by Jedd Fisch as the result of Singer “being a dumb freshman.”

Arizona was flagged 12 times in that game, tied for most all season. This year the Wildcats have been one of the least-penalized teams in the Pac-12, while ASU is last with 79 flags for 774 penalty yards.

“There’s going to be emotion, there’s gonna be excitement,” Carroll said. “There’s gonna be trash talk, it’s just not going past that to where you’re now taking yourself out of the game for something stupid. Which happened to us last year, so (we have to) make sure all our guys stay on the field. The passion and the intensity is going to be there.”

It’s not just the players that have to keep their cool. Asked how safeties coach (and diehard alum) Chuck Cecil is doing in the leadup to the Territorial Cup, defensive coordinator Johnny Nansen shook his head before answering.

“There’s a lot of things going on,” Nansen said. “We’re trying to calm him down.”