Arizona vs. Arizona State: Top Moments in the History of the Territorial Cup

Brian PedersenFeatured ColumnistNovember 25, 2013

Arizona vs. Arizona State: Top Moments in the History of the Territorial Cup

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    Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

    The Arizona-Arizona State rivalry is one of the oldest in college football, dating back to 1899, with the Territorial Cup officially recognized by the NCAA as the oldest rivalry trophy in the game.

    Nearly always played as the last regular season game for both teams, the contest between the Wildcats and Sun Devils splits the Grand Canyon State in half in terms of allegiances, usually around the time friends and family are gathering to celebrate Thanksgiving.

    This year's edition is set for Saturday, Nov. 30, in Tempe, with ASU (9-2, 7-1) needing a win to be able to host the Pac-12 Conference championship against Stanford. The Sun Devils clinched the South Division title last week with a win at UCLA.

    Arizona (7-4, 4-4) is looking to improve its bowl resume with an eighth victory, matching its total from 2012.

    This will mark just the 11th time both teams will enter the game with winning records since both joined the Pac-10 in the late 1970s, making Saturday's battle for the Territorial Cup likely to provide some memorable happenings.

    Click through the slideshow to see some of the greatest moments in this storied rivalry's history.

7. John Jefferson's Controversial Catch (1975)

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    The 1975 meeting in Tempe pitted two of the most talented and highly rated teams in the series, with Arizona State coming in with a 10-0 record and a No. 8 national ranking, while visiting Arizona (9-1) was ranked 12th.

    The winner would take the Western Athletic Conference title, and with it a berth in the Fiesta Bowl—which happened to be played in ASU's Sun Devil Stadium.

    ASU took the game 24-21, the victory aided by a diving catch from receiver John Jefferson late in the first half that Arizona fans to this day still say was an incomplete pass. The video above includes what is known as "The Catch" in rivalry lore, with Jefferson extending across the back of the end zone and landing partly inbounds and partly on the back line.

6. The Streak (1982-1990)

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    Arizona holds a 47-38-1 lead in the all-time series, with the sides splitting the last 20 meetings. Each school has run off long winning streaks over the years, but none had as much impact on the rivalry as Arizona's 8-0-1 mark against ASU from 1982-1990.

    Known as "The Streak," Arizona took control of the rivalry during this nine-year span, which included epic finishes in several games to keep the streak going. That includes the 1987 contest in Tempe where Arizona and ASU tied at 24 on a last-second field to give the Wildcats three ties that season.

    The Streak ended in 1991 in convincing fashion, with ASU taking the contest 37-14.

5. Robert Nelson's Game-Sealing Interception (2012)

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    The most recent edition of the Territorial Cup, which took place last November, pitted first-year coaches Todd Graham (Arizona State) and Rich Rodriguez (Arizona) in a game that was more about bowl positioning and bragging rights than anything else.

    Arizona State came out ahead, winning 41-34 in Tucson to continue a stretch of what is now four straight games in which the visiting team has taken the cup.

    The game was in doubt until the final four minutes when, with Arizona driving and down 34-27, Robert Nelson intercepted Matt Scott and returned it to the Wildcats' 1-yard line. ASU scored shortly thereafter to seal the victory.

4. Alex Zendejas' Blocked PAT in Overtime (2010)

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    While not as infamous as the "wide right" lore of the Florida State-Miami rivalry, the Territorial Cup has seen it share of games end on kicks.

    Or blocked ones.

    A year after being the hero for Arizona by kicking a game-winning field goal in Tempe in 2009, Alex Zendejas became the goat of the Wildcats' 30-29 double-overtime loss to Arizona State.

    Nephew of Arizona kicking legend Max Zendejas, Alex capped an inconsistent season by having two extra points blocked by ASU, including one in the second overtime that would have tied the game and sent it to another OT.

3. Re-Discovery of the Territorial Cup (1980)

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    The Arizona-Arizona State rivalry has been in existence for more than 100 years, and it included a trophy (shown above) given to the winner each season. That trophy, known as the Territorial Cup, disappeared for close to 70 years before being found in a church basement near the ASU campus in 1980.

    Though the winner each year gets to lift up and display a replica, the presence of the hardware has reignited the series. Now all games pitting Arizona and ASU are part of a full-fledged Territorial Cup Series, which tallies points for each time a school takes the season series (or individual competition) in each sport.

2. Arizona State Clinches Rose Bowl in Blowout (1997)

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    Of all the rivalries in the Pac-12 (not including newcomers Colorado and Utah, which have been force-paired as end-of-season rivals for scheduling purposes), the Arizona-Arizona State one is among the least storied in terms of overall accomplishments outside of the series.

    Arizona has never made the Rose Bowl, the only longtime member not to win the conference's outright title that earns a spot in Pasadena, while ASU has only done it twice.

    The most recent time, in 1996, came after one of the more dominant performances by either team in the series. ASU crushed the Wildcats 56-14 in Tucson, beating Arizona all over the field.

    The game got ugly late, with Arizona's Daniel Greer getting clipped from behind by ASU's Glen Gable on the back end of a meaningless touchdown. Greer broke his leg on the play, and a brawl ensued on the field.

1. Chuck Cecil's 100-Yard Interception Return TD (1986)

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    The 1986 game between Arizona and Arizona State didn't have nearly as much riding on it as others, yet it still managed to create the most exciting play in the series' history.

    Arizona led 24-10 late in the third quarter, but ASU was driving and had the momentum. The Sun Devils had a third-and-goal from the Wildcats' 5-yard line when quarterback Todd Van Raaphorst rolled right, stopped, looked left and threw toward what he thought was an open receiver crossing the end zone.

    Instead, Arizona defensive back Chuck Cecil materialized seemingly out of the air, leaping in front of the intended receiver for the interception. He took it back 100 yards (the official return distance, though it appeared longer) for a touchdown and a 31-10 lead.

    Instead, seemingly out of nowhere came Arizona defensive back Chuck Cecil, who leaped into the air to snag the pass. One hundred yards later, Arizona had a 31-10 lead, and the football program had what has been voted by fans as the greatest play in school history.

    ASU fans choose to forget that one.