Arizona Daily Wildcat
When the UA football team plays host to Arizona State Friday afternoon at Arizona Stadium, there will be more on the line than just in-state bragging rights.
For the second straight season, the winner of the rivalry game - which dates back to 1899 - will earn a bowl berth with a 6-5 overall record.
"We're pretty much identical in records and identical in our seasons," senior linebacker Adrian Koch said. "It's going to be a clash of emotions, a clash of the state line on the respect level and (for) bragging rights for the rest of the year. It's a lifetime bragging right."
The Wildcats will be facing a Sun Devils team that has lost three straight conference games and subsequently fired its head coach, Bruce Snyder, last week.
Snyder said he has been avoiding becoming too emotionally involved in Friday's game.
"I've been trying to stay focused on the 'Xs' and 'Os' and making sure that our game plan is sound," Snyder said. "Right now, it's almost business-as-usual. Will I say that (tomorrow) or Friday? I don't know."
UA head coach Dick Tomey said that he thought ASU acted unfairly in firing its coach during the regular season.
"I think what Arizona State did was despicable," Tomey said. "I think there's got to be a better way to handle that for everyone involved. People in positions of authority have to be more responsible with that. I think he was one win away from getting my vote for coach of the year."
Quarterbacking the Sun Devils will be freshman Jeff Krohn, whose father,
Jim, was a Wildcat quarterback from 1976-1979. While at UA, the elder Krohn threw for 3,305 yards and 25 touchdowns.
Snyder said he is impressed with Jeff Krohn's evolution in the past two weeks. Krohn is 4-3 in seven career starts as a Sun Devil and is the holder of ASU's single-game freshman passing record
"I think we'll see a fine player," Snyder said.
Krohn has been hampered by mononucleosis and nagging injuries throughout the season.
"Had he been able to play the whole season, his progress might have been much better," Tomey said. "He's done a terrific job."
Friday's game will also mark the final regular season game for a number of both teams' starters. Arizona State tight end Todd Heap, linebacker Adam Archuleta and 16 other senior Sun Devils will be playing to extend their seasons by an extra game.
Heap, one of the eight semifinalists for the John Mackey Award for the best tight end in college football, is ASU's all-time tight end receiving leader.
"He's been a presence in their lineup that's gotten double-coverage a lot," Tomey said. "I think he's a better player than he was a year ago."
The 6-foot tall Archuleta, a former walk-on, leads the Pacific 10 Conference with 113 tackles, 72.3 percent of which are solo stops.
"To me, he's the best defensive player in the league," Tomey said. "In my mind, it's not close. He plays with a passion that is extraordinary. I don't care what the NFL says, he's going to play. You couldn't cut him."
"We need to focus on players like Archuleta and Heap, a couple of guys who the game was made for," he said. "A couple of heroes will come out of this game."
UA will honor its seniors - including defensive linemen Joe Tafoya and Idris Haroon, linebackers Koch and Antonio Pierce, quarterback Ortege Jenkins, tight end Brandon Manumaleuna, wide receiver Brad Brennan, center Bruce Wiggins and tackle Marques McFadden - prior to the game. In the past four years, Arizona is 30-17 and has won two bowl games.
Jenkins, the most high-profile of all the seniors, will attempt to go out a winner despite his 5-5 record as UA's starter.
"He's handled the tough times with tremendous dignity and tremendous respect," Tomey said. "I've seen this young guy grow up before my eyes. I'm just real, real proud of him."
Tomey said he hopes that his seniors can finish their UA careers with a victory.
"This is a game that (UA seniors) will remember more than any other game they've played in their career," Tomey said. "They've helped us restore the pride, tenacity and gut-tough effort to the University of Arizona football. I think these seniors have done an awful lot."