Duel in the Desert this Saturday for the Territorial Cup

Jon Johnson File Photo/Gila Herald: The ASU versus UA football game for the Territorial Cup is this Saturday.

By Jon Johnson


TEMPE – Two teams moving in seemingly opposite directions will collide Saturday, Nov. 30, in the battle for the oldest rivalry trophy in college football, the Territorial Cup. 

Raymundo Frasquillo File Photo/Gila Herald: ASU hopes to “drink from the cup” again for the third time in a row this Saturday.

Last week, Arizona State University (6-5, 3-5 Pac-12) beat the Pac-12 North Champion No. 6 Oregon Ducks, 31-28, on a wild night as its freshman quarterback Jayden Daniels completed 22 of 32 passes for 408 yards and the defense intercepted Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert twice in the fourth quarter.

The win made the Sun Devils bowl eligible, and they are projected to possibly receive an invite to the Cheez-It Bowl against TCU or perhaps the Sun Bowl or Holiday Bowl, depending on how their last game of the season against the University of Arizona goes.  

Conversely, the University of Arizona (4-7, 2-6 Pac-12) lost its sixth consecutive conference game to Pac-12 South likely Champion No. 8 Utah (10-1, 7-1), 35-7, and is no longer eligible for a post-season bowl game. 

The UA started freshman quarterback Grant Gunnell on senior night and he went 8-16 for 86 yards. Former Heisman hopeful Khalil Tate came in for a number of series as per the norm for the team for some reason and went 6-11 for 39 yards in an unimpressive display.

Jon Johnson File Photo/Gila Herald: Safford alum Ralph Frias looks on during last year’s contest.

The running game wasn’t much better, with senior J.J. Taylor gaining only 33 yards on 10 carries. 

What does that all mean for the Wildcats? It means the Duel in the Desert is the Wildcats bowl game, and they would like nothing better than to avenge the Sun Devils’ come-from-behind victory last year and pay them back in their own house.    

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Will Khalil Tate return to his old form against rival ASU?

The UA leads the series with a record of 49-42-1, however, ASU has won the last two contests, including a 41-40 squeaker last year in which ASU mounted the biggest comeback in Territorial Cup history to come back from 19 points down in the fourth quarter and win on a 45-yard missed field goal attempt by UA at the end of the game. The loss ended the Wildcats’ season and left them bowl game ineligible.

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Fans always show up for the Duel in the Desert.

While some may look at the trajectory of both schools headed in opposite directions at the end of the season and both have unimpressive records, everything gets thrown out when the Territorial Cup is on the line and it just might be a barn burner in Tempe on Saturday night.

The game will be televised on ESPN, starting at 8 p.m., and the Gila Herald will be there on the field to capture the history as it unfolds.  

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