Saturday Football - the Duel in the Desert

i-548baf72cb6e4e2c2dec0c47c082a194-asuhelm[7].jpg It's the last regular season game for ASU - the Territorial Cup game against the University of Arizona Wildcats. At the beginning of the season, I don't think anyone would have predicted that ASU would have a 3-5 PAC-10 record and U of A (4-4) would have beaten three ranked opponents in a row entering into this game.

Both teams have a 6-5 record overall and the winner gets a (possible) bowl game. U of A hasn't been in a bowl games since 1998; ASU has been in five since then. An ASU win would send the team to the Emerald Bowl on December 27th.

Best case scenario for coach Dirk Koetter is that ASU beat the favored Wildcats and he keeps his job. Worst case is that we lose and Koetter gets canned. The later would involve paying out $2.85 million to buy out Koetter's contract. Given that attendance dropped in a season when ASU raised prices, there are going to be some frenetic financial calculations should people be seriously considering changing the coaching staff.

The Territorial Cup, by the way, is the oldest award given in a NCAA rivalry, and dates from 1899 when Arizona was a territory rather than a state.

The big game tonight outside of Arizona is clearly the USC v Notre Dame matchup with a win for (over-rated) USC probably being enough to send them to #2 on the BCS ranking. So, I never thought it would come to this, but I'm rooting for ND. Oh, wait a  minute, I rooted for them last year as well.

On a sad note, the 5-1 #12 ASU Women's basketball team were supposed to be playing today in the championship game of the U.S. Virgin Islands Paradise Jam against #18 Rutgers, but the game was canceled after a family member of ASU forward Aubree Johnson died while in St. Thomas to watch her play.

Update: First half is over and ASU leads 21-14. The Sun Devils came out of the gates strong, leading 21-0 at the end of the first quarter, and playing like the team we expected to see all season. The Wildcat defense got into it a little more in the second quarter. At the half, ASU has 284 yards (versus 107) and certainly dominated the offense, but two turnovers and five penalties hurt the effort. The Wildcats forced a turnover with a Rudy Carpenter fumble in the red zone, and a Carpenter interception eventually lead to UofA's second touchdown with 26 seconds to go.

The Sun Devils need to get their composure back during the break and come out strong, particularly considering Arizona is a second half team.

Update: Game over and ASU win 28-14. The Sun Devils neutralized the Wildcat offense for the second half, forced some turnovers, quietened the crowd, and the last quarter essentially became a story of running the clock.

ASU's 429 yards of offense dominated the 176 yards put up by the Wildcats. Ryan Torain rushed for 134 yards, giving him a 1000+ yard first season for ASU. The Miller brothers together accounted for 127 yards receiving  and one touchdown.

ASU end the regular season 7-5, 4-5 in the PAC-10, and are probably bowl-bound. Not what was expected, but considering the receiving corp and the O-line were decimated, it could have been worse. Whether Koetter keeps his job remains to be seen.

Update: ASU men's basketball squad came back twice from double digit deficit in the second half to beat the Iowa Hawkeyes 67-64. and go 3-2. Wells Fargo Arena was louder than I've heard it in years. It's a good evening to be a Sun Devil.

Update (11/26): ASU announced tonight that Dirk Koetter has been fired. Koetter finished 40-33 across six seasons, 21-28 in the PAC-10, 2-19 against ranked teams, 0-12 in California, and 4-2 against Arizona. Some of those numbers are more significant than others.

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