Ka'Deem Carey took a last-minute visit to Arizona State in January 2011, his faith in his hometown Arizona Wildcats wavering, if only for a minute.
"I was real close" to committing to ASU, Carey said this week.
He would have made a heck of a Sun Devil, too.
But the running back said he felt too much loyalty to the UA; the Canyon del Oro High School star confirmed his verbal commitment to the Wildcats with a letter of intent shortly after, and he enrolled at Arizona that summer.
The Territorial Cup rivalry is full of stories like Carey's. The two programs pull most of their players from the same talent pools in Phoenix, Southern California and, increasingly, Texas.
Consider: Ten of Arizona State's 22 starters were offered scholarships by both the Sun Devils and Wildcats out of high school. Of Arizona's starters, just five - Carey, wide receiver Austin Hill, linebacker Marquis Flowers, safety Jourdon Grandon and cornerback Shaquille Richardson - had offers from ASU when they chose the Wildcats.
And Richardson initially turned down both schools for UCLA.
Hill said his decision was an easy one: The Sun Devils assistant who recruited him had a previous - and bad - relationship with Hill's older brother, Aaron.
"It was an easy choice," he said. "I didn't really want to go to ASU."
Carey kept an open mind when it came to ASU, which he calls "a great school with a great atmosphere and environment."
Arizona, though, has proved a perfect fit. Through 11 games, Carey - the UA's sophomore tailback - leads the nation with 1,585 yards, and his 144.1 yards per game are also tops in the country. Carey can break the UA's single-season rushing record with just 18 yards tonight.
Three touchdowns would give him 22 and break Art Luppino's record of 21, set in 1954.
Had he chosen Arizona State, Carey would have likely redshirted as a true freshman in 2011.
This season would have likely been spent in a backup role, as the Sun Devils have a senior, Cameron Marshall, starting at tailback.
Plus, Carey said, it would have just felt funny.
"There's nothing better than being a Wildcat," he said. "At the end of the day, the red and blue just fits me more. It's my hometown."
The last time
Cats escaped with win after 4th-quarter rally
Date: Nov. 19, 2011
What went down: Backup quarterback Bryson Beirne connected with Juron Criner for a 23-yard touchdown play with 5:18 remaining, and the Arizona Wildcats stunned rival Arizona State 31-27 at Sun Devil Stadium.
Turning point: Arizona outscored ASU 14-3 in the fourth quarter, and held on as Sun Devils quarterback Brock Osweiler fired pass after pass into the end zone on the team's final drive. UA cornerback Shaquille Richardson broke up a pass on the game's final play, and the Wildcats escaped with a four-point win.
Stats that matter: Arizona State outgained the Wildcats, 548 to 494, but Osweiler threw two interceptions and the team lost a fumble. Foles completed 35 of 51 passes for 370 yards and two touchdowns in his final rivalry game.
It's history: Arizona's upset win hastened ASU's firing of coach Dennis Erickson, and - strangely - brought the UA one step closer to finding its next leader. On the morning of the Territorial Cup game, UA athletic director Greg Byrne flew to El Paso to meet with CBS analyst Rich Rodriguez. Two days later Rodriguez was introduced as the Wildcats' next head coach.
ROUGH on Quarterbacks
Devils top in nation in sacking opponents
It took four years for Matt Scott to finally run out of bounds. Tonight, Arizona will try to keep him from getting run over.
Arizona State leads the nation with 47 sacks this season; its 4.27 sacks per game also ranks No. 1 nationally. Three Sun Devils - defensive tackle Will Sutton, "Devil" defensive end Carl Bradford and linebacker Brandon Magee - all rank in the Pac-12's top 10 in sacks. Sutton has 10 1/2 sacks, second in the conference per game behind UCLA's Anthony Barr. Bradford (9 1/2 sacks) and Magee (6 1/2 sacks) have more combined than Arizona's entire team.
"They blitz a lot - I think it's over 50 percent of the time - but they also pressure without blitzing," UA coach Rich Rodriguez said. "They're a big pressure team. They're able to get pressure without bringing extra guys, and that's a big concern for us."
Fortunately for the Wildcats, their offensive line is coming off one of the most encouraging performances of the season. The UA limited Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei to three tackles in last week's win. Scott stayed healthy, too, mostly by running out of bounds on rush plays.
"We've taught him all year to protect himself," Rodriguez said. "We told Matt in particular and B.J. (Denker) the week before, 'Be smart and don't take an unnecessary hit. Trust the timing of the play.'"
Bonano automatic on PATs in Arizona career
John Bonano quietly crept into the Arizona record book two weeks ago, when he hit his 69th consecutive PAT in the UA's win over Colorado. The senior kicker is now 74 for 74 in his career.
All which means we're probably jinxing him by bringing up the following stat: Since Alex Zendejas missed a pair of PATs in Arizona's 2010 Territorial Cup loss to Arizona State, the Wildcats have been practically perfect on extra points. Arizona has connected on 95 percent (87 of 92) of all PATs since that freaky finish.
Bonano is coming off one of the best games of his college career. The senior connected on field goals from 44 and 24 yards in last week's win over Utah. So far this season, he has hit 12 of 18 field goals. Oddly, Bonano is more accurate from between 40 and 49 yards (75 percent) than from 20 to 29 yards (70 percent) and 30-39 (50 percent).
"He's got a strong, strong leg," coach Rich Rodriguez said. "He can kick them from 50 (yards) under normal conditions."
Of course, tonight probably won't be normal. UA kickers have won (2009) - or lost (2010)- two of the last three rivalry games against the Sun Devils.
Where did he come from?
Little-known Cats have meant trouble for ASU
The Territorial Cup has been a who's who of who's he? for as long as UA fans can remember. Here's a look at the little-known Wildcats who made names for themselves in the rivalry game:
• Bryson Beirne attempted just one pass in relief of the injured Nick Foles last year, but it was a big one. His strike to Juron Criner gave the UA a late lead that held in a 31-27 win.
• Special-teamer Orlando Vargas blocked an ASU punt, scooped it up and scored to give Arizona the lead in the 2009 game. Later, reserve cornerback Mike Turner recovered a muffed punt, setting up Alex Zendejas' game-winning field goal, and the UA won 20-17.
• Richard Kovalcheck found Michael Jefferson for a 47-yard touchdown with 5:05 remaining in the 2004 game, and the Wildcats stunned the No. 18 Devils 34-27 in Tucson.
• UA cornerback Kelvin Hunter, playing opposite All-American Chris McAlister, ended the 1998 game with a breakup of Ryan Kealy's pass as time expired, and the Wildcats won 50-42.
Arizona State at arizona • 8 p.m. • ESPN • 1290-AM, 107.5-FM, 990-AM (Spanish)
Game-day breakdown by Ryan Finley
Arizona's two fight songs and its alma mater all mention the color red before blue. So maybe it's time for the Wildcats to wear red helmets again. The UA will hold a "red-out," complete with the cardinal caps, when it takes on rival Arizona State tonight. Here's a by-the-numbers look at Arizona's history with red helmets.
Number of seasons - 1968-70 and 1978-80 - that the UA wore red helmets.
The Wildcats' record against ASU when wearing red helmets. The UA beat the Sun Devils 27-24 in 1979, Tony Mason's last game as coach.
Number of helmets worn (white, navy, copper and, now, red) by the Arizona Wildcats this year.
Arizona's all-time record when wearing red lids.
Territorial Cup records
• First meeting: 1899 (ASU won, 11-2 in Tucson's Carrillo Gardens)
• Last meeting: 2011 (Arizona won, 31-27 in Tempe's Sun Devil Stadium)
• All-time record: Arizona leads the series 47-37-1
• Last 20 games: The series is tied 10-10.
• Last 15 games: ASU has won eight games since 1997.
• Last 10 games: ASU has won six games since 2002.
• Last 5 games: Arizona has won three games since 2007.
• Most rushing yards: 288, by Arizona's Trung Canidate (1998)
• Most passing yards: 511, by ASU's Ryan Kealy (1998)
• Most receiving yards: 199, by ASU's Gerell Robinson (2011)
• Most tackles: 21, by Arizona's Marcus Bell (1998) and ASU's Mark Tingstad (1988)