University of Arizona's Alex Zendejas.

Dean Knuth/Arizona Daily Star

Barring something altogether unexpected and kind of cruel, Alex Zendejas will watch Saturday's Territorial Cup game from the sideline, a senior spectator.

The Arizona Wildcats' backup place-kicker won't move, unless - like last week - the UA needs him to try an onside kick at the end of the game or starter John Bonano gets hurt.

But playing isn't the point. At least not now.

Zendejas has found an uneasy peace a year after Arizona State blocked two of his PATs on the way to a 30-29, double-overtime win at Arizona Stadium, and two months after losing his job to Bonano, a former walk-on. The mistakes that haunted the kicker since last December have, strangely, become a lesson learned.

"I'm still here," Zendejas said. "I haven't quit on myself, and I haven't quit on my team."

In fact, Zendejas said he's excited for Saturday's rivalry game - even though his role will be, to put it kindly, limited.

The nephew of UA scoring leader Max Zendejas and of former ASU kickers Luis and Alan Zendejas has played a pivotal role in the last two rivalry games. He hit a 32-yard field goal as time expired to give the Wildcats a dramatic 20-17 win over the Sun Devils in 2009.

His performance in last year's game - ASU blocked a low point-after kick that would have won the game with 27 seconds left in regulation, then did it again while holding a one-point lead in overtime - ranks among the strangest in recent years.

The Star talked to Alex Zendejas, 22, about his history with the rivalry, his expectations for Saturday's game and how he'll be remembered. Here's what he said:

You've had a unique perspective on this rivalry growing up, and you've played a part in the last two outcomes. What's does it mean?

A. "I've had uncles that played there and uncles that played here , but in the end it's all family. It's all fun. It's a rivalry game; it's always something big. Everybody wants to claim that they're the best in the state, and that's what we're trying to do this week."

Your team is 2-7. Arizona State is in a position to win the Pac-12 South. What does this year's game mean?

A. "A lot, especially for our team and how hard we've worked. It hasn't all turned out our way, but going out there and playing ASU … it'd be good to beat them."

About last year's game …

A. "It seems like a really long time ago. … The way I've been looking at it, that's one game; if a lot of people want to judge me from that one game, so be it. I'm not mad about my career here so far."

Do people forget that you actually beat ASU two years ago?

A. "You've got to ask them. That was awesome for all the same reasons it wasn't so awesome last year. The family was there, being from Arizona and going to high school in Arizona and going to school here, I have a lot of friends who go to school there, too. It was a great feeling."

Growing up in Phoenix as part of a family split between Wildcats and Sun Devils, did you root for one team or another?

A. "You know, playing Division I football was my goal. I wanted to stay in-state, but I didn't really have a favorite growing up."

Your uncles didn't try to sway you?

A. "It didn't seem as bad when I wasn't playing. When I started playing, I started hearing stuff."

Is it strange to see your career ending?

A. "Definitely. Four-and-a-half years go by so fast: school, football … yeah, it's just weird."

All things considered, do you consider your time at the UA to be a positive one?

A. "Definitely. I've learned so much. I've grown as a person, grown as a player. I've experienced highs, I've experienced lows, I've learned from them and I've taken what I can out of them."

Up next

• What: Arizona at ASU

• When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday


• Radio 1290-AM, 107.5-FM

Elway visits Wildcats,

watches practice and foles

Hall of Fame quarterback and Denver Broncos executive John Elway visited the UA football offices Wednesday and watched part of practice on campus, marking the second time in a week that he's seen the Arizona Wildcats in action.

Though Elway left the Jimenez Practice Facility before media arrived, he's believed to have been scouting Arizona's seniors - notably quarterback Nick Foles. Elway was in attendance Saturday, when Colorado defeated Arizona 48-29 in Boulder.

The visit was a treat for Foles, who followed Elway's career closely despite growing up in Texas - far from Denver. Foles even wore Elway's No. 7 as a quarterback at Austin's Westlake High School.

- Ryan Finley