It’s the game that Arizona sports fans have been waiting for all season. Arizona State University will take on the University of Arizona in the annual Territorial Cup game, one of college football’s oldest rivalries. This year, the Wildcats will make the short drive north on I-10 to Tempe with hopes of keeping the cup. The long-awaited game is set to kickoff at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday.
The history of the rivalry dates back to over 100 years ago on a football field in Tucson. On Nov. 30th, 1899, The Normal School of Arizona (which later became Arizona State University) played The University of Arizona in a Thanksgiving Day match. The two teams met as part of the Arizona Territorial Football League Championship, with the Normals winning the game 11-2.
Newspapers from the time stated that The Normal School of Arizona had a team with a little more experience, since it was the first football game for the University of Arizona’s team. With the Normal’s 11-2 victory, they were awarded the coveted Territorial Cup, a totem that both schools still play for today.
The cup was given it’s name because in 1899, Arizona was still just a U.S. Territory. It did not become an official “state” until Feb. 14, 1912.
Over the course of the next twenty five years, the schools did not have regularly scheduled games. Once The Normal School of Arizona became Tempe State Teacher’s College and a four-year school in 1925, the game between the two schools became an annual occurrence.
The Tempe State Teacher’s College was short lived, and in 1929 they became the Arizona State Teacher’s College. That remained until the 1950’s when they made the push to become an official university.
This fueled the fire between the two schools, The University of Arizona and many of it’s alumni strongly opposed Arizona State Teacher’s College becoming an official university. The University of Arizona and their alumni prided themselves on being the only university in the state and wanted to keep it that way.
In 1958, Prop 200 was set to be voted on to determine if Arizona State Teacher’s College would become an official university. The students and alumni from The University of Arizona were so strongly opposed to it that they snuck into Sun Devil Stadium and burned “No 200” on the football field.
That same year, the soon-to-be Arizona State University annihilated the University of Arizona, beating them 47-0. This victory was huge for Arizona State, and it proved to set the tone for the rest of the year when they won the vote and became an official university.
From that point on, the rivalry between the two schools has been intense, leading to a plethora of traditions that have stemmed from from the grudge, getting students hyped and ready to go for the game.
One of those traditions for the Sun Devils is guarding the “A” on Hayden Butte. Wildcats always attempt to leave a mark by painting the “A” red. Sun Devils stand watch and protect the A to make sure the “A” stays gold.
UofA’s Sentinel Peak in Tucson, where their “A” is located, is on federal land. If any Sun Devils are caught trying to paint the “A” on their mountain gold, they risk being charged with federal trespassing and vandalism. This is why students from Arizona State took a trip down to Tucson a few years ago to play a different prank during rivalry week.
A group of Sun Devils made the trip down to Tucson and attempted to convince the Wildcat students that their school was located on land illegally obtained from Mexico and that land should be given back. They asked students to sign a fake proposition and encouraging them to vote for giving the land back. They even handed out brochures, which included information about the land, and featuring information on how to transfer to Arizona State. Many of the students believed the prank, including the school paper. They wrote a story about it, before realizing it was a prank and quickly removing it
The biggest factor in this game is the bragging rights that come with the victory. Those, and the shiny silver Territorial Cup are given to the winning team to boast about and put on display for the remainder of the year.
After ASU had won the first meeting back in 1899, the location of the cup was unknown for years. In 1980, the trophy was located in the All Saints Catholic Newman Center church right off of ASU’s campus on the other side of University Drive. The NCAA authenticated the cup, which officially made it the oldest cup in college football.
In 2000, the Territorial Cup became a traveling trophy to go home with the winning team each year. There is a set of rules for how the trophy must be cared for and how it can be used. A replica trophy has been made and is given out to the winning team on the football field to ensure the real trophy can be kept safe.
The schools have played in 91 games total since their first meeting in 1899. Of their 91 total games, UofA leads in the win column 49-40-1. However, if you look at the record since Arizona State has become an official university, they lead in the overall wins 31-26-1.
This year, both schools went above and beyond nearly everyone’s expectations of them. Both were picked to finish at the bottom of the PAC-12 South. However, the winner of this game will finish second in the South, with the loser finishing in third.
The University of Arizona has an all-star in quarterback Khalil Tate. Tate has been able to ignite the Wildcats run game and power them to a 7-4 overall record this year. However, the University of Oregon showed that Tate is human and can be stopped, holding him to only 32 yards on 14 carries.
Arizona State on the other hand is the more well-rounded team. Offensively the Sun Devils have a strong receiving core, and have a two-headed monster in running backs Demario Richard and Kalen Ballage. Defensively, the team has some of the strongest tacklers in the PAC-12 with DJ Calhoun and Christian Sam.
The biggest x-factor this year is going to be the quarterbacks. Manny Wilkins has attempted 353 passes for a total of 2,755 yards this season and 14 touchdowns. He has set a school record, becoming the first quarterback to play in 11 games with fewer than five interceptions.
Despite attempting less than half of the passes Wilkins has, Tate has double the amount of interceptions. This season, he has attempted 140 passes for a total of 1,157 yards and nine touchdowns. However, he has thrown eight interceptions so far this season.
The Sun Devils will host the Wildcats for the annual Duel in the Desert Saturday with kickoff scheduled for 2:30 p.m. It will be senior night for the Sun Devils, and players like Richard, Ballage, Sam and Calhoun will be looking to end their career in Sun Devil Stadium with a win.