When they kick off Saturday in Tempe, Arizona and Arizona State will write the latest chapter in a Territorial Cup rivalry that dates back to 1899. That’s a lot of history.
The Star, in conjunction with The Arizona Republic, asked former ASU and UA players to tell us their most memorable Territorial Cup experience. Their responses will run every day this week.
Here’s what they said:
JEFF VAN RAAPHORST (1983-86)
“I remember more the overall frustration of having good teams that never beat UA. To not accomplish that was very frustrating, although it was easier for the players because you had a shot. Sometimes it’s harder on the fans, because they’re not on the field. The game in 1985 meant a lot, then it went to meaning nothing in ’86 when we already had the Rose Bowl locked up. It’s harder to get it going when looking for something bigger and better. Going to the Rose Bowl became the dominant thing, and that was the goal. We achieved something much larger than beating UA. You need to win that game (UA) but set your sights higher.”
ARIZONA QUARTERBACK EDDIE WILSON (1959-61)
“The best part was my three-year history as a sophomore, junior and senior. When I was a sophomore, you played both ways — I was the second-string quarterback — and that game was a real turnaround for Arizona football. We were competitive with a program that was becoming one of the region’s better football teams, if not the best under Dan Devine and Frank Kush. That game was very competitive — we lost 15-9 — and it got hot in the second half. We were going down for a chance to tie or win, and I threw an interception on a long ball. The next day, and this was late in the game, I woke up and read the paper at my folks’ house in Chandler, and the paper said, ‘Interception Costs Cats Victory.’ That stuck in my craw. I remembered it. It was true, but I wasn’t going to let it happen again.
“The next year, we were going good, won like six straight, and Arizona State in that game was favored by three touchdowns. But we had a very explosive football team. I was a small part of it, but we had a backfield, and we had three backs. Warren Livingston, who was a senior that year, had one of his best games ever. He was dominating. Maybe our leading rusher, caught a touchdown, and we smacked those guys 35-7 on a team that was supposed to beat us by three touchdowns. That woke up Arizona State. We’d really turned Arizona around.
“Then next year, my senior year, … (both teams were) having successful seasons. Usually, one team was up and one team was down. … We were 7-1-1, and they were 7-2. This was the last ballgame of the year. In the two years I happened to be the starting quarterback, our record was 15-4-1, but we had a habit, maybe due to my poor play, of having to come from behind — nine of those 15 were come from behind. Here’s Arizona State and the University of Arizona … both having good years, and we play them up at Tempe — the largest crowd to ever see a college sporting event in Arizona — 43,000.
“Arizona State jumped out ahead of us in the game and at halftime they were up 13-3; second half, true to form, we came from behind. I hit a touchdown pass, and I scored on a sprint-out play, but the key play was a fantastic run by a guy who doesn’t get enough recognition from Arizona fans — Bobby Thompson. We ran a crisscross counterbuck, handed it off to Bobby, and he was hit by nine players — nine guys had a shot at him, a legit shot, and four of those guys were in our own backfield. It was a 57-yard touchdown run, and to me, it was the greatest run along with a couple Walter Payton runs, that I’ve ever seen. All you have to do is look at the game film, and you’d see it was. Eight, nine yards downfield, he was free. Then it was a footrace between him and (ASU’s) Nolan Jones, and Joe Hernandez, our right halfback, took a fake. Joe raced downfield, completely got ahead of Nolan Jones and creamed him. Bobby would’ve probably scored anyway, but it was a great block. We won the game 22-13, and it was one of the most memorable games for me. It was a big game, both teams were good.
“I liked Frank Kush. I was recruited heavily by him, and I really appreciated it. I’ve come to appreciate Frank Kush even more. I’m proud to say I’m a friend of his. That win meant a little more to me than to many other guys, having been recruited by him, grown up an ASU fan, coming to U of A and beating him. That was fantastic.
“My senior year, second half, I made a fake into the line, kept the ball around the line of scrimmage, and I’m running 8, maybe 10 yards, and I got hit by Charley Taylor. My God they were alive. I was right on their sideline, enemy territory. I remember that hit very vividly. Shoulder to shoulder. In football the low man wins, and he won. Knocked me off my feet and out of bounds.
“That 15-4-1 record, at that point in time, was as good a record U of A had ever had. In 1987, that 1961 team was selected by panel of Tucson officials, the best team in U of A history. Even today it would measure up with one of the best. Even today, we get together, and it’s like the whole brotherhood coming back together. It was an exemplification of unselfishness, good chemistry and teamwork. We had our stars, but they weren’t really our stars.”