TEMPE — After a loss to Oregon State, Tempe residents and students awoke to a typical but unsettling rivalry week scene. Arizona state’s iconic “A” on Hayden Butte was vandalized with red and blue paint, lighting the flame for Friday’s state meeting.
The Sun Devils will face Arizona for the 96th time in this duel in the desert and look to bring the Territorial Cup to Tempe for the sixth straight year. ASU interim coach Shaun Aguano tries his best to motivate his players during a disappointing season.
During practice that week, Aguano made sure they were aware of this incident on “A” Mountain and even performed the Wildcats fight song to keep his players energized.
“They weren’t happy about it, and that’s a good thing,” Aguano said. “There are a few things from a commitment and motivation perspective that I’m happy to bring to the table. But they really need to know that we only have to perform in training. I’m going to throw these little tidbits this week just to keep it interesting.
After the Wildcats lost to Washington State, Aguano noticed a video circulating online of an argument between Arizona quarterback Jayden de Laura and wide receiver Dorian Singer and plans to use the heated exchange to his advantage.
Let’s look at Arizona…. QB & WR do it on the sidelines 😭😭😭😭😭 pic.twitter.com/M5y8QIYr8F
— 𝗙𝗢𝗟𝗟𝗢𝗪 @𝗙𝗧𝗕𝗲𝗮𝗿𝗱𝟳 (@FTBeard7) November 19, 2022
“I also made sure our kids saw the little scuffle on the sidelines and all the things we don’t have to do,” Aguano said. “So anything I can use to advantage.”
This season, for the first time, 43 players will play in maroon and gold. With their diverse backgrounds, not all 43 might be able to grasp the importance of one of college football’s oldest rivalries. Aguano explained the “why” behind the storied rivalry to provide further motivation.
Aguano and the video department shot an educational video about the meaning of the Territorial Cup and even brought popular ASU alumni to speak with the team, including Juan Roque, Jean Boyd and Kevin Minefield.
“I sat back last night before I came in this morning and thought, ‘Do these kids really get what it is?'” Aguano said.
“This is a one-game season right here, and this game probably means more to them and the state of Arizona than anyone really realizes. They talk about the Territorial Cup but they don’t know the reason and the history so we spent about five to six minutes just watching a video about the history of the Territorial Cup so these guys understand exactly what we’re playing to. “
Although the future is uncertain for Aguano, seniors Kyle Soelle, Merlin Robertson and Case Hatch will play in an ASU uniform in their final game. The trio are yet to lose to the Wildcats and will do whatever it takes to maintain that unbeaten streak for the team next year.
“I have to say one thing, it’s personal. It’s definitely a personal thing,” said Hatch. “I haven’t lost to them yet so hopefully we’ll continue like that.”
For junior quarterback Trenton Bourguet, Friday afternoon’s matchup will be an exciting moment. Bourguet was a backup previously, attempting just two passes in the 70-7 win in 2020.
This time he will be going to his hometown of Marana, about 20 miles outside of Tucson, as a starter.
“I’m definitely looking forward to it,” said Bourguet. “I grew up with this game and I know how much it means, so I’m looking forward to it.”
Aguano said his quarterback “is a competitor. I know what it means for him to go there and win. He will be prepared and ready as always.”
A win on Friday would crown Arizona’s Sun Devils champions and could aid state recruiting.
“There’s a lot of stuff to use in a recruitment speech that you can get, but beating Arizona is tremendous,” Aguano said. “You want to win the kids fight in Arizona. My goal is to attract and keep the best kids, and just having that in your speech is something I think is a huge benefit.
As the game approaches, Aguano understands that there are many emotions surrounding the game of both teams. Despite the many changes the 2022 Sun Devils have faced this season, Aguano is hoping his players can put emotions aside and play for the love of the game.
“If you’re emotional, you’re getting yourself into trouble,” Aguano said. “When you’re emotional, you make terrible mistakes. Playing with passion because you love the game of football and the atmosphere and you love the challenge, that’s what I need to make sure our kids play with it.”
After everything the team has been through, the Sun Devil brotherhood is expected to be as strong as ever this Friday afternoon.
“This game has been played for over 100 years, so just being on the sidelines with my football team is a huge feather in my cap,” Agunao said. “Just an honor for me to represent the state of Arizona and it would be a great honor to capture that win as well.”
Kick-off is Friday at 1 p.m. at Arizona Stadium in Tucson.