Last year’s result looms large over the rivalry game between visiting Arizona and Arizona State on Saturday in Tempe, Ariz.
The Sun Devils posted an historic 70-7 victory in 2020 by recording a school-record 10 touchdowns, scoring the most points in a Territorial Cup game and winning by the largest margin. It was also the last contest for Wildcats coach Kevin Sumlin. He was fired a day later.
A billboard still stands next to Interstate 10 on the drive from Tucson to Phoenix, reminding everyone of the final score, with the words: “No pity for the kitty.”
Arizona coach Jedd Fisch wasn’t part of the game, but he’s seen plenty of game tape and apparently needs no further introduction to an often bitter, heated rivalry.
“When it’s 63-7 and you call a pass on fourth-and-4, there’s something to that,” Fisch said. “We remember.”
The Wildcats (1-10, 1-7 Pac-12) also remember Arizona State running back Rachaad White.
He was the MVP of last year’s game, rushing for 133 yards and three touchdowns, including a 93-yard romp.
White is the top offensive weapon for Arizona State (7-4, 5-3), which had hopes of winning the Pac-12 South but has lost three of its past five games. White had back-to-back games of 202 and 184 rushing yards earlier this month before he was held to 39 yards last week in a loss at Oregon State. He did contribute six catches for 86 yards against the Beavers, though.
“The running game has been pretty good,” Arizona State coach Herm Edwards said. “Last week, not so much. (Oregon State) got us in some bad downs and we weren’t able to run the ball like we would like. With that being said, if you have an efficient passing game, that helps you.”
The passing game hasn’t always been all that efficient, with quarterback Jayden Daniels completing 176 of 266 passes for 2,135 yards, with eight touchdowns and nine interceptions.
Arizona’s offense has been among the worst in the nation, failing to reach 20 points in nine games. Quarterback Will Plummer (five TDs, eight interceptions) leads what often has been a short-passing attack. Stanley Berryhill III is a threat, catching 73 passes for 640 yards, and he can be dangerous on fly sweeps.
The Wildcats’ defense has been improved — ranking 61st nationally in yards allowed (376.2 per game) — but this will be the last game for coordinator Don Brown, who has accepted the head coaching position at UMass.
He would be fondly remembered at Arizona if he is part of a group that avenges the 2020 result.
“It’s clearly in the forefront of everybody’s mind since I arrived here,” Fisch said. “Not just the outcome of the season prior, but the importance of the game.”
Arizona State has won four in a row in the series, its longest streak since the teams joined the then-Pac-10 in 1978.
–Field Level Media