ASU “King of the North” in Recent Years
The Wildcats haven't won in Tempe since 2011
Arizona defensive lineman Jeff Worthy (55) fails to stop ASU running back Kalen Ballage (9) at Sun Devil Stadium in November, 2015.
The confines of Sun Devil Stadium, situated 113 miles north of Arizona Stadium, have been an unfriendly place to the Arizona Wildcats since head coach Rich Rodriguez took over in 2012.
In the two visits under Rodriguez, UA has been outscored 110-58.
“I thought our intensity was good, but our execution sometimes was out of kilter,” Rich Rodriguez said this week, referencing the last two trips to Tempe. “It’s hard to predict rivalry games.”
With the Wildcats set to travel on the road this year to face the Sun Devils, let’s take a quick walk down memory lane to revisit the last few times the Territorial Cup has taken place in Tempe.
UA’s last win up north came in 2011, when quarterback Nick Foles and wide receiver Juron Criner still doned the cardinal and navy uniforms. The Wildcats defeated the Sun Devils 31-27, thanks to a fourth quarter comeback and key defensive stops.
The ‘Cats jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead in the 1st quarter with touchdowns from running backs Keola Antolin and Ka’Deem Carey. ASU stormed back, though, and scored three touchdowns in the second quarter.
The Sun Devils held a 27-17 lead early in the fourth quarter, but the Wildcat offense engineered two brilliant scoring drives. Foles led a 7-play, 94-yard touchdown drive to bring the game within a field goal and then backup quarterback Bryson Beirne completed a 23-yard touchdown screen pass to Criner to take the lead after Foles went down with an injury.
With time running out and the ball at the Wildcats’ 15 yard line, ASU quarterback Brock Osweiler threw a pass into the end zone but it was broken up by defensive back Shaquille Richardson. Game over.
Arizona finished the season 4-8 and the Rich Rod era would begin three days later.
Rich Rod’s first game in Tempe couldn’t have gone much worse. The No. 12 ranked Sun Devils dismantled the unranked Wildcats 58-21 in a matchup that was never close.
UA’s first five offensive drives ended without success: punt, punt, turnover on downs, turnover on downs, interception. In turn, ASU jumped out to a 27-0 lead before the Wildcats eventually scored a touchdown to put a crooked number on the scoreboard towards the end of the second quarter.
The second half didn’t go much better for Arizona as quarterback B.J. Denker threw a pick-six on UA’s second drive. Denker finished the night 15-30 for 175 yards and three interceptions. ASU quarterback Taylor Kelly ripped apart the Wildcat secondary, throwing for 275 yards and two touchdowns.
The Wildcats finished the year with an 8-5 record after beating Boston College in the AdvoCare V100 Bowl.
Arizona’s most recent game in Tempe with RichRod was a bit closer than the final score, 52-37, portrayed. This was the game that thrust UA quarterback Brandon Dawkins into the spotlight as the redshirt freshman replaced ineffective starter Jerrard Randall in the second quarter.
The Sun Devils raced out to a 21-7 lead before Dawkins entered the game mid-way through the second frame. And after Dawkins led the ‘Cats down for a field goal, ASU added two more scoring drives to increase its lead to 31-10 at halftime.
Arizona came out firing in the second half and the Wildcats scored 13 unanswered points, including a 95-yard touchdown pass from Dawkins to wide receiver Trey Griffey where Griffey dodged several tacklers on his way to the end zone.
The Sun Devils and Wildcats traded touchdown drives after that and with under four minutes to go, it was a 38-30 game. But Dawkins threw pick-sixes on the next two drives which sealed UA’s fate.
Arizona ended the year with a 7-6 record after beating the University of New Mexico in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl.
The 2017 chapter will be written this Saturday in Tempe where the home team has won the last four matchups. Who will be crowned “King of the North” this year?
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