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2023 Territorial Cup: No pity from the kitty?

Anthony Gimino Avatar
November 22, 2023
Arizona and Arizona State are getting ready to battle again this Saturday in Tempe for the Territorial Cup. (Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)

Arizona Wildcats defensive back Treydan Stukes tied for the team lead in tackles on that day that you’re still trying to forget.

Tyler Loop was Arizona’s punter.

Nazar Bombata made a special teams tackle.

Josh Baker played as a backup offensive lineman.

Long snapper Seth MacKellar got into the game.

Jordan Morgan would have been Arizona’s starting left tackle but he was out due to injury.

Michael Wiley scored a touchdown, making him responsible for the tiny number on the wrong side of the ridiculously lopsided score on that day you’d rather not remember.

Dec. 11, 2020. Arizona-Arizona State. The Territorial Cup. You know it, you hate it: 70-7.

There are only a handful of Wildcats left from that day, which, given the current trajectory of both programs, seems like ancient history.

But the rivalry always remembers.

Arizona coach Jedd Fisch, asked Monday about what he’s doing to inform newcomers of the importance of the Territorial Cup rivalry, simply answered, “Yeah, I showed them a billboard.”

Fisch was not smiling when he said it.

It’s on.

It’s been on.

Arizona is 8-3 with five consecutive victories – four against teams that were ranked at the time – and landed at No. 15 in this week’s College Football Playoff rankings. You should definitely pause and make sure to enjoy this wild ride.

Arizona State, meanwhile, is 3-8 and is still finding its way in the first season under coach Kenny Dillingham (who I think was a really good hire, by the way).

Things have changed so quickly in three years.

Check out the box score from the 2020 Territorial Cup game (if you can stomach it): ASU’s young roster included a host of players who are now stars in 2023 at other schools: Quarterback Jayden Daniels (Heisman candidate at LSU), wide receiver Ricky Pearsall (Florida), wide receiver Johnny Wilson (Florida State), running back Chip Trayanum (Ohio State).

But instead of a run of ASU dominance, here we are with the Sun Devils trying to dig out of an NCAA investigation while the Wildcats roar and enter the Territorial Cup rivalry game with a five-game edge on the Sun Devils for the first time ever.*

*You could kind of include 1998, too. Arizona was 10-1; ASU was 5-5. That’s five more victories, but technically just 4 1/2 games better as the Wildcats had the “extra” game at Hawaii to start the season.

Anyway, we can all agree that the programs are in very different spots than they were back in 2020, back to the day of 70-7 to wrap up Arizona’s COVID-shortened season and all the final justification UA administration needed to fire Kevin Sumlin.

“It’s about as low as it could get,” Stukes said this week about the mood of the Wildcats after the 70-7 loss. “You never want to lose a rivalry game like that, especially them running up the score. But, yeah, we’ve come a long way since then. Just look to the future now.”

Does that future include payback this Saturday in Tempe?

The Wildcats certainly have the goods to run it up.

“I just want to have us play our best game,” Stukes said. “I won’t worry about us running up the score or anything. I just want us to play our best game as a team, and that should be enough.”

That’s a mature, measured response. Well done by Stukes.

To which, I will say:

When you have a chance to stomp on your rival, stomp on your rival.

Run it up. Pay it back.

If Fisch is going to call for a deep pass for a touchdown in the final minute of last week’s game against Utah while leading 35-18, chances are he will be all gas, no brakes against the Sun Devils, no matter the score.

When you have a chance to stomp on your rival, stomp on your rival.

If only because you never know when you might have the chance to do it again.

The 2023 season is Arizona’s time to change the message: No pity from the kitty.

Follow Anthony Gimino on X

Top photo: Arizona and Arizona State are getting ready to battle again this Saturday in Tempe. (Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)

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