It’s Arizona-Arizona State. Prepare for weirdness.
“It definitely feel like strange things happen,” said Wildcats fifth-year senior linebacker Jake Fischer.
“There are always monumental special teams plays. There are always trick plays thrown in there. People will make catches you don’t think are possible. Just a bunch of different things.”
And comebacks. Lots and lots of comebacks.
In each of the past two seasons, the team that held a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter of the Territorial Cup game lost.
In 2010, ASU rallied from an eight-point deficit early in the fourth quarter to win in double overtime.
In 2009, Arizona blew an 11-point lead in the final period (but still won on a last-second field goal).
In all, six of the past 19 meetings between the schools has seen a team cough up a double-digit fourth-quarter lead; five of those teams ending up losing. There is no give-up in this rivalry game. Expect the improbable.
Here is a look at the big, late comebacks in the past two decades:
UA lead in fourth quarter: 27-17
Final: ASU 41-34
What happened: With the Wildcats up 27-20 and facing first-and-10 from the ASU 18, Matt Scott, while trying to jump over a defender, fumbled the ball and turned it over to the Sun Devils. ASU drove for the tying score and went ahead after recovering a Kyle Dugandzic blocked punt at the UA 8.
A 66-yard interception return set up ASU for another touchdown to complete a 21-point blitz in about 4 1/2 minutes. When Arizona failed to recover an onside kick with about two minutes left, the game was over.
Quote: “Matt (Scott) made some good decisions and there are some I’m sure he’d like to have back. But he’s a stud. I told him in the locker room that I loved him.” — Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez
ASU lead in fourth quarter: 27-17
Final: UA 31-27
What happened: With Arizona pinned at its 6 after ASU went up by 10 points, ASU’s Eddie Elder was penalized for a personal foul on a first-down incompletion. Five plays later, the Cats were in the end zone on a 33-yard pass from Nick Foles to Gino Crump.
Little-used fifth-year senior Bryson Beirne, in relief of an injured Foles on the next possession, made the play of his career with a go-ahead 23-yard touchdown pass to Juron Criner. Shaq Richardson preserved the win by knocking away a last-play pass in the end zone after ASU had marched to the UA 15.
Quote: “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.” — Crump.
UA lead in fourth quarter: 14-3
Final: UA 20-17
What happened: ASU’s Kyle Williams made a super, leaping catch in the back of the end zone to tie the score at 17 with 2:02 left, but he quickly became the goat. After ASU forced Arizona to punt from its 38 with 1:10 left, Williams muffed the catch, and Mike Turner pounced on the ball for the Wildcats at the ASU 22.
Alex Zendejas, carrying on a family tradition in Sun Devil Stadium, where his uncle Max was an ASU killer in 1983 and 1985, kicked a last-play 32-yard field goal to win it.
Quote: “Oh, man. A lot of difference three points will make in your life.” — Arizona coach Mike Stoops
UA lead in fourth quarter: 20-12
Final: ASU 23-20
What happened: Terry Richardson returned a punt 71 yards for a touchdown with 7:52 left, and a two-point conversion pass tied the game. Jesse Ainsworth won it with a 20-yard field goal with nine seconds left after a 13-play, 77-yard drive. The Wildcats had led 20-5 in the third quarter.
Quote: “If it wasn’t for (special teams blocks) by Josh Barrett and Keno Walter-White, I’d have corners in my face. I had more than 10 yards of room to catch it, breathe, look. I could have sat down and ate a snack.” — Richardson, on his punt return for a touchdown.
ASU lead in fourth quarter: 28-14
Final: Arizona 31-28
What happened: UA’s comeback was fueled by receiver Richard Dice, playing with a torn ACL. After ASU went up by two touchdowns with 7:54 left, he started the ensuing drive with a 25-yard catch over the middle, then later in the possession out-jumped two defenders near the sideline to make a 27-yard catch at the ASU 6. (Limping off the field after the play, he famously gave the Sun Devil Stadium crowd a one-finger salute.)
The Wildcats scored a touchdown to finish that drive and then found the end zone on defense, as Chuck Osborne sacked Jake Plummer, knocking the ball loose. Joe Salave’a scooped it up and dashed 8 yards into the end zone. The winning points came on Jon Prasuhn’s 36-yard field goal with 22 seconds left.
Quote: “This is the biggest game you can play, and I’m 3-0 in it. They always say that the last memory is your clearest. You can’t beat this feeling.” — Arizona QB Dan White
ASU lead in fourth quarter: 27-15
Final: Arizona 28-27
What happened: The Wildcats scored at the end of a nine-play, 79-yard drive with 13:31 to go, then forced a three-and-out to get the ball back. From the ASU 4, Dan White rolled right, spun away from a tackle and passed to tight end Lamar Harris in the back of the end zone to take the lead.
The Sun Devils’ final drive was kept alive by a roughing-the-passer penalty on fourth down, but UA held on to win as Jon Baker just missed wide right on a 47-yard field goal attempt with 28 seconds left.
Quote: “Coach (Dick) Tomey said it was really a check on what kind of (guts) we had. He wanted to know if we were going to drive them off the ball, stop them on defense and come back and win this thing to give our seniors a good feeling leaving Arizona Stadium, or if we were just going to roll over with our tails between our legs. We took option No. 1.” — Arizona DE Tedy Bruschi.