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Better late than never

By Connor Doyle
Monday November 26, 2001

Cats end 2-year skid against Sun Devils with balanced effort

KEVIN KLAUS/ Arizona Daily Wildcat

UA football players (from left) Jermaine Chatman, Eli Wnek, Anthony Banks and Shelton Ross celebrate with the Big Game Trophy following the Wildcats' 34-21 victory against Arizona State Friday afternoon in Tempe. The trophy, given to the winner of the in-state rivalry game, was awarded to UA wide receiver Bobby Wade in a game marred by penalties and a post-game brawl at midfield.

After an up-and-down season, the Wildcats will have at least one fond memory - beating the Sun Devils on their home field in the annual "Big Game" between the two in-state rivals.

In a game featuring Arizona's (5-6, 2-6 Pacific 10 Conference) most balanced effort on both sides of the ball this season, the Wildcats defeated Arizona State 34-21 Friday to claim the Territorial Cup and a year's worth of bragging rights.

The end of the game was marred by a fight that broke out midfield between the two teams after some Sun Devil (4-6, 1-6 Pac-10) players charged at the Wildcats, who were singing "Bear Down Arizona" on the painted ASU mascot. While no one was hurt, many of the players and coaches expressed their disappointment with the conduct of the two teams.

"I was disappointed we didn't act a little better upon winning the game," UA head coach John Mackovic said. "To be the best - and we want our program to be the best or among the best - we have to learn to lose with dignity, and we have to learn to win with a certain class. It's a great rivalry, and I don't ever want it to be less than that."

"If we think we're going to fight on the field because of something at the 50-yard line, that's ridiculous," ASU head coach Dirk Koetter said. "That's not what we're about. That's not the way we want to represent our university."

The Wildcats scored early on a 19-yard hookup between junior quarterback Jason Johnson and junior wide receiver Bobby Wade. Wade would finish the day with 11 catches for 157 yards en route to winning the Ben Goo Trophy as the most valuable player of the game.

KEVIN KLAUS/Arizona Daily Wildcat

UA senior safety Zaharius Johnson sacks ASU freshman quarterback Andrew Walters and forces a fumble during Friday's game at Sun Devil Stadium.

"Jason stepped up in the pocket and made some crucial throws and fortunately they were right when I was making my breaks," Wade said. "That's what we talked about all year, trying to get that timing down, and we were able to do that today."

The Wildcats would push the lead to 20 after a 20-yard touchdown run by sophomore running back Clarence Farmer with 38 seconds left in the quarter. Farmer finished with a game-high 158 yards rushing on 32 carries, 100 of those coming in the first half.

"Obviously, there's still a few things here and there (to improve on), but it feels good to finish the season finally putting it together in the air and on the ground," Johnson said.

After ASU managed to pull the score to 20-14, UA responded with an eight-play drive culminating in a 10-yard touchdown pass from Johnson to senior wide receiver Malosi Leonard.

KEVIN KLAUS/Arizona Daily Wildcat

UA junior wide receiver Bobby Wade celebrates after scoring a first-quarter touchdown against ASU at Sun Devil Stadium Saturday. Wade won the Ben Goo Trophy as the game's most valuable player after catching 11 passes for 157 yards.

On the ensuing possession, UA senior safety Brandon Nash all but slammed the door shut on the Sun Devils with a touchdown off an interception off a tipped pass from ASU sophomore quarterback Jeff Krohn. Nash said he was happy to make the play in his last collegiate game.

"I was playing my defense, and the ball got tipped and came my way," Nash said. "It was one of the best moments of my football career."

After an ASU touchdown to make the score 34-21 midway through the fourth quarter, the Sun Devils had the ball on their 31 with 2:35 left in the game. Called on to make a final defensive stand, the Wildcats managed two sacks en route to a game-clinching four-and-out.

The game featured one of Arizona's best defensive efforts of the season against the pass. The defensive line was able to establish penetration at the point of attack, gathering seven sacks and forcing the ASU quarterbacks into a host of bad throws. The platoon of Krohn and freshman Andrew Walter would combine for 15 of 35 on passing attempts for 184 yards on the day.

KEVIN KLAUS/Arizona Daily Wildcat

UA and ASU players fight midfield at Sun Devil Stadium after Wildcat players began singing "Bear Down Arizona" over the painted "Sparky" mascot on the field.

"We had a pretty good read formation-wise on some of the things they were going to do," Mackovic said. "Also, when you fall further behind, you have to stop throwing the ball farther down the field, and you hold the ball a little longer. That plays right into what we wanted."

One bright spot for the Sun Devils was the play of senior running back Delvon Flowers, who racked up 138 yards on 20 carries and two touchdowns on the day.

The win ended a tough season for the Wildcats, who began the year with three wins against non-conference opponents, but lost all but two of their Pac-10 games. This will be the third straight season UA won't be eligible for a bowl game, but many of the players and coaches said this was an important win if the team expects to improve next season.

"For our underclassmen, I'm extremely pleased because it's a great start for 2002," Mackovic said. "It gives them a good feeling, a good taste. The thing about a rivalry like this is someone goes home (a loser) and it hurts, and I know (ASU will) feel it for a year."


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