The Cup? Where’s the Cup?
The Arizona Wildcats were in their locker room, being so loud that nobody could hear themselves think. Not that they wanted to. They wanted to feel, to soak up a 31-27 come-from-behind victory against rival Arizona State that, at least partially, erased the frustration of a disappointing season.
The Wildcats, with their voices reverberating in the locker room and into the hallway, roared a version of “Bear Down.”
“We’ve never done that before,” said receiver Juron Criner.
But where was the Territorial Cup? Arizona State officials couldn’t find it.
The Wildcats had already celebrated on the field, running all over Sun Devil Stadium, after cornerback Shaquille Richardson broke up a pass to receiver Mike Willie in the end zone on the final play of the game.
On ASU’s previous drive, Jourdon Grandon intercepted a Brock Osweiler pass at the ASU 16.
Before all that, Arizona scored on back-to-back possessions on tackle-shredding runs after short catches — a 33-yarder by Gino Crump and a 23-yarder by Juron Criner, turning a 27-17 deficit into a 31-27 lead.
As soon as that last pass hit the turf, Crump broke down into tears and went running onto the field. He was one of several players who grabbed the UA flag and carried it around the field in triumph. He eventually reached midfield and planted that flag into the Sun Devil Stadium turf.
“That felt great,” Crump said.
“You dream about that as a kid. You grow up watching these kind of games and to have an opportunity to go out and spike our flag in our enemies’ territory in the middle of the field, you dream about that.”
And, you can be sure, Arizona was well aware that the Sun Devils had planted a pitchfork at midfield of Arizona Stadium last year.
“Payback is a you-know-what,” Crump said.
But the Cup? Who had the cup that these schools first battled over in 1899?
Interim head coach Tim Kish was, naturally, beaming after the game. And soaking. He got his second career victory and his first Gatorade shower on the field.
“I could get used to that,” he said.
Kish tweaked all week. With injuries up front, he often went to a three-man defensive front, using six defensive backs, plus 185-pound “linebacker” Tramayne Bondurant. Kish moved linebacker Paul Vassallo to defensive end.
Did it work? Helped by a lack of an ASU running game, with Cameron Marshall ailing with a knee injury, Arizona gave up huge chunks of yardage through the air. Osweiler threw 65 times and completed passes of 27, 34, 30, 58, 20, 21, 22, 47 and 20 yards.
But the new scheme made Arizona more athletic, and Kish let them fly around, and the Wildcats, amid allowing 548 total yards, came up with three key turnovers deep in their own territory.
“I’m so proud of this football team, the senior group especially,” Kish said.
“We asked the team to play a 60-minute game, and I don’t if it gets any better than that. The mantra has been to run the marathon and not the 5K.”
Arizona, coming off a 48-29 loss to Colorado, had appeared to be on its last legs, to be ready to exit the race. The Cats had lost 13 of its past 14 games against FBS competition.
Arizona appeared to be sinking further Saturday night when the offense stalled through the middle of the game after scoring touchdowns on each of its first two possessions. But there would be no give-up on this night.
Trailing by 10 in the fourth quarter, Crump’s catch-and-run along the sideline was the spark, capping a 94-yard drive to get the Wildcats back in the game.
“He made an unbelievable play,” said offensive coordinator Seth Littrell. “That was all player. That had nothing to do with the call, I promise you.”
While Littrell and others were doing interviews, ASU officials were still trying to locate the Territorial Cup.
Kish was in the middle of about a six-minute interview, talking about how “there is justice for everybody” with this victory, when junior center Kyle Quinn burst into the media room.
It was found. He was clutching the Cup in his left hand, handing it to Kish.
“I like that!” Kish told him, hastily giving it back to Quinn. “We’ve got to get this back to the locker room.”
And off Quinn went with the spoils, running into the locker room, yelling, “We got it!”
“Everybody ran toward it,” Quinn said.
“Everybody just came up and started to grab it, wanting to touch it. That Cup is very special. It’s just amazing to have that thing in our possession for the next year.”
That sums up one special night for the Wildcats, in another storied chapter of the rivalry.