By Charles Renning
SAUL LOEB/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wildcat defenseive lineman Young Thompson can't wait to get one more crack at the Sun Devils on Friday. The senior is playing in his fourth and final "Duel in the Desert."
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday November 26, 2002
Arizona has not had a week off since the first week of September, and last week's break couldn't have come at a better time, with rival Arizona State coming to Tucson on Friday.
The team was coming off its first conference win of the season, a 52-41 win at California, and an extremely hectic week before that included a player meeting with President Pete Likins.
"The week off was huge," senior quarterback Jason Johnson said. "It allowed us to relax. We've be through so many emotions. We were able to get away from it and not be rushed into a game plan."
"I'm glad we didn't play last week," head coach John Mackovic said. "I don't think we would have been ready emotionally."
The Wildcats were given two days off last week and started preparation for Arizona State on Sunday. Since the game is on a Friday, not a Saturday, Arizona has moved its practice schedule up one day.
With the extra week of preparation for the ASU game, everyone involved in the 76th edition of the "Duel in the Desert" has just that much more time to build up their emotions for Friday's game.
"You don't have to say very much (about the rivalry), because so many other people are talking," Mackovic said.
As is the case with every rivalry game, emotions will play a big role.
Last year, emotions ran high and a fight ensued following the Wildcats' 34-21 victory over the Sun Devils in Tempe.
"We don't like them, and they don't like us," freshman running back Gainus Scott said. "When we go out there, it is a battle until the end."
If you want to know how much this rivalry means to someone, talk to senior defensive tackle Young Thompson.
"I hate those guys," he said. "With their namesake and all, they can go back to hell where they are from and burn there."
Thompson even had a brother who played at ASU and still has strong feelings toward the Sun Devils.
"We'll be ready for those guys," Thompson said.
The Wildcats and Sun Devils will be playing Friday's game for the rights to the oldest intercollegiate rivalry trophy in the nation ÷ the Territorial Championship Cup.
The cup was given to Tempe Normal School (now ASU) in 1899 after it beat Arizona 11-2. Each year, the winner of the game between the two schools gets to hold onto the trophy until the next season's game.
The teams will also be playing for the Big Game Trophy, which is given to the game's MVP, and the Saguaro Trophy, which is given to the coach of the winning team for the next year.
One of the keys to Friday's game will be the play of both teams' offensive lines. On paper, both teams have very similar stats, but the big difference between the two schools is the sacks.
Arizona ranks last in the Pacific 10 Conference in sacks allowed with 49, while ASU is second in the conference in sacks with 46. A big reason for the Sun Devils' successful pass rush is the presence of junior defensive end Terrell Suggs.
"He's the best pass rusher in college football ÷ there isn't any question about that," Mackovic said.
Suggs set the NCAA single-season sacks record with 20 sacks this season, only two behind the entire Wildcat team for the year.
For the Wildcats to be successful, many players agree that they will have to account for Suggs on every play.
"If we want to be successful both running and passing, we have to stop Terrell Suggs," Johnson said.