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Game preview: UA, ASU battle for basement

CHRIS CODUTO/Arizona Daily Wildcat
UA running back Mike Bell struggles for yardage in Arizona's 45-0 loss against USC. The Wildcats will likely need Bell to put up big numbers on the ground Friday against ASU.
By James Kelley
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, November 26, 2003
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Cats head up I-10 with sights set on Territorial Cup

Though a multimillion dollar bowl game - or any bowl, for that matter - is not on the line, the Territorial Cup will still feature a fierce rivalry game between bitter in-state rivals.

Arizona (2-9, 1-6 Pacific-10 Conference) travels to Arizona State (4-7, 1-6) Friday to try to take back the Territorial Cup - the nation's oldest trophy recognized by the NCAA. The game, which starts at 1 p.m., will be televised nationally on Fox Sports Net, with pre- and post-game shows on Fox Sports Net Arizona.

"I've been a part of this rivalry since I was little. It means pretty much the world to me right now," said UA senior linebacker Matt Molina, a Phoenix area native. "We've been through so much this year. To go up to ASU and get a win would mean everything."

Last year in Tucson, the Wildcats committed 10 turnovers as ASU won the Territorial Cup, 34-20. Though the Sun Devils have won three of the last four meetings, Arizona has won six of the last 10 and has only lost three times in Tempe since 1982.

Arizona has gone 14-6-1 against ASU since 1982 and leads the all-time series 43-21-1.

UA vs. ASU

Who: Arizona Wildcats vs. Arizona State Sun Devils
When: Friday, 1 p.m.
Where: Tempe; Sun Devil Stadium
TV: Fox Sports Net
Radio: KNST 790 AM
Tickets: or 1-888-SUN-DVLS

Arizona senior safety Clay Hardt, a Tucson native, went to many UA-ASU football games growing up.

"It's crazy. Anything can happen," Hardt said. "It's the type of rivalry where the two teams really don't like each other at all, so it gets wild. You see people get kicked out of the game. It's a different atmosphere, a different level of intensity when we play each other, because there is so much bad blood between each other."

Arizona won two years ago in Tempe, 31-24 - the lone victory over ASU in former UA head coach John Mackovic's tenure. The game was more subdued than expected last year at Arizona Stadium - there was only one personal foul. The last time the game was played in Tempe, a fight broke out when UA players sang "Bear Down Arizona" on the Sun Devil logo at midfield.

Hardt said his favorite memories of his career are "beating them up there in their own house and then beating them again after the game," referring to the 2001 melee.

Senior cornerback Gary Love has the chance to move into the school record books, as he is in the top 25 in the country with three forced fumbles. UA's single-season record is five by a couple of former All-Americans, Chris Singleton in 1988 and head coach candidate Ricky Hunley in 1983.

"It will obviously have a lot more emotion to it than the other games - after all, we're battling for the best in Arizona," Love said. "There's a real dislike between the two teams. We both want to show each other who's the best team. Our main focus is going out here and getting as prepared as we can and go to war - go out there and play a good, hard-nosed game."

After finishing last in the country in rushing in 2002, the Wildcats are fifth in the Pac-10 on the ground this season and are second in the conference in sacks allowed.

SAUL LOEB/Arizona Daily Wildcat
UA interim head coach Mike Hankwitz may be coaching his final game for the Wildcats on Friday at Arizona State. Hankwitz, who was interviewed by UA President Peter Likins and athletics director Jim Livengood on Monday, has led Arizona to a 1-5 record since John Mackovic was fired on Sept. 28.

After notching only 14 yards on 14 carries against No. 2 Southern California, the Wildcats will look to get sophomore running back and Phoenix native Mike Bell back to his form of two games ago against Washington, when he had 222 yards on 26 carries. With 825 yards on 143 rushes - a 5.8 yards per carry average - Bell is third in the Pac-10 in rushing.

Though the defense has given up the most points in UA single-season history, there have been a few bright spots of late. In the 45-0 loss, the Wildcats stopped the Trojans from scoring three of seven times in the red zone. They prevented Washington from scoring seven times when they were inside Arizona's 20-yard line.

"We've got to win this game, there's no question," Molina said. "They hate us. We hate them. This is a season in itself. You can go 10-0 and lose this game, and your season wasn't that much of a success. Our seniors have so much pride. There's no love there."

The loser of the Territorial Cup will also finish last in the Pac-10, leading some to dub it the "Toilet Bowl" and "Battle for the Basement."

Sophomore quarterback Nic Costa laughed at those monikers.

"You can call it whatever you want for the Pac-10 standings, but when it comes down to it, we'll both bring top-notch levels of play where it will be hard for any team in the Pac-10 to beat you," Costa said. "It's a rivalry game, and anything can happen in a rivalry game. There have been times when they've been undefeated and in the top five in the country and we've beaten them.

"It's not a matter of who's better coming in; it's a matter of who wants it more," Costa said.

- Charles Renning contributed to this report.

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