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Heroes Aren't Just the Stars
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
Release: 11/19/2012
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Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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Nov. 19, 2012

Arizona vs. Arizona State, Friday, Nov. 23 - The Territorial Cup

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A third-string quarterback goes in and chucks one pass. It goes 23 yards for a highlight-reel touchdown that provides the winning margin. An oft-tested DB knocks down the last pass in the last test at the goal line.

A backup safety and erstwhile linebacker who plays on special teams makes one very special play, blocking a punt and returning it 23 yards for a score, and the team never trails in eventually winning two quarters and three points later. That field goal is set up by another journeyman special teams guy recovering a botched punt return.

A game goes 92 points deep and on the final play of the contest a picked-on, tired cornerback knocks down another guy's 56th pass to hold him to only 511 yards, and save an eight-point victory.

An All-American linebacker playing on special teams strips a punt returner, and a no-name cornerback falls on it nine yards later - in the end zone - to start a three-score comeback that leads to victory. Another turnover forced on a sack helps in the end.

All those games have a few things in common. They were Territorial Cup contests, the Arizona Wildcats beat the ASU Sun Devils, and they typified some enduring appeal of college football - 22 guys on the field can have a bearing on the game, and not all are all-stars.  The game takes an effort by everyone, and an occasional lucky break at times.

ASU has its own collection of similar moments, no doubt. The teams have played to a 47-37-1 record (in UA's favor) since the first Territorial Cup game in 1899. It's the oldest NCAA-sanctioned trophy game and it's full of lore.

Not every player is a Dan White, UA quarterback who was uncanny and undefeated against ASU as the starter from 1993-95, or a Danny White, ASU quarterback who starred in Sun Devil victories from 1971-73. Not everyone is a Chuck Cecil (100-yard legendary INT) or a James DeBow (4th-down tackle a foot shy of the goal), both plays against the No. 2 Devils in 1986. (And UA fans who can remember ASU's Woody Green or Art Malone or Mike Haynes or Vernon Maxwell maybe wish they couldn't.) But football is a team game, and winning takes winning plays -- from anyone.

Here's a look at a few:

Nov. 19, 2011 - Sun Devil Stadium

Nick Foles connects on an improbable 33-yard pass-run with Gino Crump to cap a seven-play, 94-yard drive that pulls Arizona to within three, 27-24, with 10 minutes remaining in Tempe. The Cats had watched a 14-0 start turn sour.

The Cats hold on 4th-and-3 inside their own 40 yard-line and UA takes over again. Eight minutes left. Foles, who had completed 35 of 51 tosses for 370 yards, runs once and hands off four times, one a huge run (23 yards) by frosh Ka'Deem Carey, to put UA at the ASU 23 yard-line. Foles is shaken up on a 2nd-and-9 run of five yards by Keola Antolin and leaves the game.

Fifth-year senior Bryson Beirne, actually a graduate who's backed up Willie Tuitama, Matt Scott and Foles in his career, and who's playing on a bum knee, enters the game. Third down, four yards to go. Presumably UA's John Bonano can kick a 38-yard field goal to tie if the Cats can get a two yards or things stall.

They don't. Beirne sets up and tosses a short pass to Juron Criner, who weaves down the left sideline with some nifty moves for his ninth catch (134 yards) and the go-ahead score. It's Beirne's only touchdown pass of the season and the second of his career dating to the Sept. 3, 2010, season opener against Citadel.

UA freshman safety Jourdon Grandon ends ASU's next drive at the UA 16 yard-line with an interception. The Cats go 3-and-out on purpose, punt and set up for the final defensive stand at the ASU 20.

Four first downs later, ASU QB Brock Osweiler sees his final pass (65th) knocked down at the goal line by cornerback Shaq Richardson. It's his second PBU to go with an earlier interception. Clock expires. Cats win, 31-27.

***

Nov. 28, 2009 - Sun Devil Stadium

Sophomore transfer Nick Foles has a modest afternoon and the Cats can only summon one offensive touchdown - a 67-yard run by Keola Antolin -- but a huge special teams play and a couple of kicks prove victorious.

With Antolin's 7-0 first-quarter stake, the half is winding down. An ASU drive stalls. In comes the punter.

Little used safety, fullback, H-back and linebacker Orlando Vargas has made a mark on special teams. He notches 25 tackles in 2008-09 flying around. He flies around again.

Vargas blocks the kick, scoops and scampers 23 yards to score, and put UA ahead 14-0 in a game later decided by three points:

Game tied, 17-17 with one minute left. UA's Keenyn Crier kicks a 40-yard punt and the only turnover in a three-and-a-half hour game, a muff, is recovered by UA's Mike Turner, a former receiver turned DB who never started a UA game but spearheads downfield work on special teams. His heads-up play gives UA the ball at the ASU 22 yard-line.

The Cats run the ball three times, the final a cover-the-ball and don't-let-go setup by Foles. Alex Zendejas comes in and kicks his second field goal of the game, for 32 yards. Cats win, 20-17, as the clock goes to 0:00.

***

Nov. 27, 1998 - Arizona Stadium

Arizona is 10-1, ranked seventh and playing in the first year of the BCS system for a co-Pac-10 title and all sorts of bowl possibilities. (One, the Rose Bowl, only takes undefeated UCLA winning in a Hurricane Georges make-up game at Miami a week later; it doesn't.)

It's the Trung Canidate game. He's to finish with a Wildcat school-record 288 rushing yards, scoring on runs of 80, 66 and 48 yards in an effort that stands for 14 years until Ka'Deem Carey explodes for 366 yards and five touchdowns against Colorado on Nov. 10, 2012.

Trung's effort alone isn't enough. The teams go up and down the field in a 1,169-yard scorefest. UA runs 53 times for 374 yards behind Canidate's work, ASU passes 56 times for 511 yards behind Ryan Kealy's arm.

No team can muster a commanding lead, but UA gets a 15-point margin only to see Kealy come back with some more bombs to trim it to eight. UA gets another 15-point margin, only to see Kealy come back with some more bombs to cut it to eight, 50-42, with two minutes left.

It's a compelling game. There's Canidate; a pair of nine-catch, 100-yard receivers in ASU's Kenny Mitchell and Creig Spann; Ortege Jenkins and Keith Smith under center for UA; Dennis Northcutt; future NFL defenders Chris McAlister, DaShon Polk, Joe Tafoya and Marcus Bell in red and blue; 21 penalties and 11 punts... Etc.    

ASU gets the ball with 1:58 to go. In the final two-minute drill, with 57,953 fans on hand or watching on FSN, no one really doubts ASU could march 80 yards and score, and go for two. (They'd already tried twice, but failed. Still, they'll go for it.)

Kealy throws for nine yards to Spann. Kealy throws for 35 yards to Mitchell. Kealy throws for eight yards to Spann. ASU's at the UA 28 yard-line with one play left.

Kealy throws for the end zone, and UA cornerback Kelvin Hunter, the guy opposite All-American McAlister, knocks it down as time expires. It's Hunter's 16th defended pass of the year and a huge one.

The Cats move to 11-1 and provisionally talk to Holiday Bowl reps in the locker room. A month later they're playing Nebraska in San Diego, and skinny Brad Brennan catches a big pass, fullback Kelvin Eafon scores the final points, and UA winds up 12-1. (McAlister gets two picks; stars are heroes, too.)

***

Nov. 23, 1985 - Sun Devil Stadium

UA Coach Larry Smith talks about "finding a way to win," and in 1982 his teams start doing it against ASU. Eventually, and after Smith left for the job at USC, "The Streak" went to nine consecutive without a defeat to the Devils. Dick Tomey carried the flag the last four years of that string.

Place kicker Max Zendejas, as prominent a name as any in UA's historical football collection, found a way to provide the winning points three times against ASU, 1983-85.  His final effort took some help.

In '85, the 8-2 Devils are ranked No. 20 in the coaches poll and loaded with offensive stars like Danny Villa, Jeff Van Raaphorst and Aaron Cox. Greg Battle and David Fulcher anchor a tough defense. The Cats, 7-3, countered with Byron Evans, Allan Durden and Chuck Cecil on defense and Jon Horton, Joe Tofflemire and David Adams on the other side. Among others. It's a team game.

It's 3-3 at the half in Tempe, and then Van Raaphorst keys two drives to give ASU a 10-point lead with six minutes left in the third quarter. In a game that UA finishes with 186 total yards and 10 first downs, this gives UA fans a bad feeling.

No matter. The Cats are stymied at their own 43 and Ruben Rodriguez comes on to punt. His 46-yarder is jarred free from Anthony Parker by UA star linebacker Evans at the ASU 9 yard-line, and cornerback Don Be'Ans follows the ball into the end zone and recovers for a touchdown. He's recovered six balls in his career, none bigger.  ASU's lead is 13-10. 

The teams trade back and forth some, and ASU misses a 22-yard field goal. The Cats move just enough for Zendejas to connect from 50 yards and make it 13-all with 5:29 left in the game.

On 3rd-and-8 at their own 32, Van Raaphorst is rushed by UA defensive tackle Stanley Mataele, a juco transfer, who gets his fourth sack of the year - and a fumble caused and a fumble recovered - for a loss of 12 yards to put UA at the 20 yard-line. The Cats go up the middle three times for five total yards... and Zendejas knocks home a 32-yarder for the final points. Cats up 16-13.

Cecil gets a pick on the next ASU drive and UA quarterback Alfred Jenkins takes a knee three times. Game over. The streak lives.

***

Novembers Past

There's way more. Willie Hamilton and Lee Pistor in '74. Tight end Lamar Harris catches a 4th-quarter TD pass in 1994. Richard Kovalcheck to Michael Jefferson in 2004.  Brandon Nash's 13-yard pick-six in 2001.  O.J. to Brad Brennan on a "free" off-sides play in '97. Craig Vesling's stop-the-drive INT in '84. Walk-on Brett Weber's 27-yard field goal as time expires in '79, his only points of the season. There are 85 games between the two teams and that makes for hundreds of stories.

Every game in the series touches both sides with equal impact, one good, one bad, and the moments aren't forgotten. Possibly the recollections change some, and that's okay. Football lore is all about variety. 

Put UA and ASU on the same field and there will be something to remember, for sure.

***

Nov. 23, 2012 - Arizona Stadium

This chapter comes this Friday. Count on some players making some big plays. It's guaranteed.

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