Big wins by Cardinals, ASU, Arizona, NAU make for arguably best football weekend in state history.
By CRAIG MORGANFS Arizona
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Cardinals coach Bruce Arians has no ties to
Arizona's universities, but he did sit up and take notice when Arizona and Arizona State both posted big victories on Saturday.
"I was rooting like heck for both teams," he said Monday. "I watched the Arizona game and Rich Rod did a heck of a job with that one, and then at our meetings, we had the Arizona State game on, and I kept peeking back out to make sure how that one went."
Arians said there was added pressure on the Cardinals when both teams won.
"It was," he said, laughing. "It was a great weekend."
The Cardinals' domination of the AFC-South leading Indianapolis Colts was the capper to perhaps the best weekend of Arizona football in the state's history.
-- The Cards beat Indy with their most complete effort of the season to put themselves squarely in the hunt for an NFC wild card berth. The defense held the Colts to just 239 yards, the offense turned in a balanced 410-yard attack, and the game was all but over early in the third quarter when Rashard Mendenhall's 5-yard TD run gave Arizona a 34-3 lead.
-- Northern Arizona University scored 17 four-quarter points to defeat Southern Utah on the road and earn its first postseason appearance spot since 2003. With the win, NAU ended the regular season 9-2 for the first time since 1996. The Lumberjacks earned the No. 3 seed as an at-large bid and will host South Dakota State on Saturday at 6 p.m. NAU will bring a six-game winning streak into the playoffs.
-- Arizona throttled No. 5 Oregon 42-16 at Arizona Stadium for the program's biggest win under second-year coach Rich Rodriguez. The
Wildcats hadn't beaten a top-5 team since upsetting then-No. 2 Oregon 34-24 in Tucson in 2007.
-- Arizona State (now No. 12 in the BCS rankings) threw several monkeys off its back when it defeated recent nemesis UCLA at the Rose Bowl 38-33 to clinch the Pac-12 South title and a berth in the conference title game. The victory was
ASU's first road win over an AP ranked opponent since 2002 at Oregon.
"You need nothing else other than the Territorial Cup, but it's nice for the state, in my opinion, to have teams that are doing well," ASU coach Todd Graham said. "That's nice for football here."
The fact that all three universities will be playing in the postseason may not seem that major an accomplishment in an era when about half the Football Bowl Subdivision goes to bowl games, but consider this: When Arizona and Arizona State meet on Saturday for the Territorial Cup, it will mark the first time since 1986 that both teams have entered the game with at least seven wins.
Add in the fact that the Cardinals have only recorded three winning seasons since moving to the Valley in 1988 and you begin to understand what this weekend meant. The Cardinals, Arizona State, Arizona and NAU have never combined to post winning records in the same season. With two more Cardinals wins, 2013 will be the first.