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Rich Rodriguez knows that this season has not gone well, but is hoping that Arizona can end it with a win not only for its obvious rivalry implications, but also because of what it means for the seniors.
“As I told the team, and the upperclassmen certainly understand, it is the biggest game we play every year, regardless of what is at stake,” Rodriguez said.
“Some years there has been a lot at stake, but for us, it is a rivalry school. We have one of the greatest rivalries in college sports, so I think as tough as the season has been, playing ASU certainly gives our guys something to really work hard for this week and try to achieve Friday night.”
This senior class has been important to Rodriguez and it is one that he positively reflects on.
“It has been huge,” he said. “There are some of them that were in our very first recruiting class. A lot of them were here for a couple of pretty good seasons, and they have given great effort this year and throughout their careers.
“It sounds corny, but as a staff when you bring someone in, you want every player to say in 10-15 years down the road, ‘if I had to do it all over again, I would do it at the same place with the same people’.
“That means they truly enjoyed their experience. You would have to poll them, but I think most of them would say that. It gives me great pride to watch a lot of these guys from when they first come as 18-year-old young men to being 22 or 23 years old to see where they have come.”
Arizona will try to honor the seniors throughout the week.
“What is added on to the importance of playing ASU is it is the seniors’ last game, not just last home game, but last game period,” Rodriguez said. “We will do quite a bit with them throughout the week as far as honoring the seniors.
“This certainly has not been the kind of year any of us, in particular the seniors, wanted to have, but throughout their careers they have accomplished quite a bit and they are a great group of young men.
“I think all of them have either graduated or will graduate by the end of the summer. It is a special group of guys and I know it is going to be a huge game for them in particular.”
For senior defensive lineman Sani Fuimaono, a win Friday would cap off a career he is proud of.
“It would mean everything for our seniors, our program and for our fans, especially for our coaches who have put so much time into preparation for this season,” Fuimaono said.
“Although this season hasn’t been what we expected and hoped for, this is the biggest game on our calendar every year. Finishing the year with a win against ASU would mean everything because we’re not bowl eligible. They need one more win to go to a bowl, so if we can’t go, they shouldn’t either.”