The Arizona St. Sun Devils fell just short during Saturday's Territorial Cup game against the Arizona Wildcats 31-27 and look to rebound from a three-game losing streak during their regular season finale against the Cal Golden Bears. The team can still represent the Pac-12 South in the conference title game if the Sun Devils beat the Bears, the UCLA Bruins lose to the USC Trojans and the Utah Utes beat the Colorado Buffaloes.
On Monday, head coach Dennis Erickson reflected on the Arizona game and looked ahead to the coming match-up against Cal. Asked about his team's outlook following Saturday's game, Erickson had this to say:
"(They were) somber. That was the most difficult loss since I've been here, without a question. When you put a lot of energy into this program like they have, particularly those seniors that have been there for a long time. They're frustrated like they should be, like we all should be."
Erickson talked about the senior class in particular as well:
"I love them. They've been here since the start. It's like I've said, they've done a lot of things for this program and this university, and I couldn't be prouder of them. It's going to be fun to see them go out."
If things play out the right way, Erickson may be able to send off his seniors with a visit to the Pac-12 title game. With UCLA and Utah still in contention for the Pac-12 South crown, the Sun Devils need a three-way tie between the teams in order to represent the division (a two-way tie with UCLA alone would favor the Bruins due to the head-to-head match-up).
Such a scenario would present itself if ASU beats Cal, UCLA loses to USC and Utah beats Colorado this weekend. In the resulting tiebreaker, UCLA would be eliminated of the three due to division record. In the resulting two-way tie between ASU and Utah, the Sun Devils would get the nod over the Utes due to a head-to-head win.
Before looking ahead, however, Erickson is focused on the upcoming game against Cal:
"We have to win. Other things have to happen, but at least if we win, we have a chance."
Can the under-fire head coach rally his squad for one final victory of the 2011 season? Friday's game between the Sun Devils and Golden Bears, one of several significant Pac-12 games in the season's closing chapter, will reveal the answer.