If you talk to players and coaches who have participated on either side of the Territorial Cup rivalry, they'll tell you the same thing: They didn't know what they were getting into.
They hear stories about how nasty the other team's fans can get, and how intense the game itself is. But they don't fully appreciate it until they take the field.
You can add Arizona State coach Herm Edwards to that list following his first-ever Territorial Cup game vs. Arizona in Tucson, which will go down as one of the most memorable in the 119-year history of the rivalry.
"When you sit from afar and you hear about it, you go, ‘OK.’ When you’re a part of it, when you go (back) 119 years, you go, 'Hmm, this game has been around a while,'" Edwards said Tuesday as his Sun Devils prepare to face No. 21 Fresno State in the Las Vegas Bowl.
"Stories get told from one generation and it filters down to the next generation, and all of a sudden, it’s just what it is, and it makes it very interesting."
Edwards, whose Sun Devils pulled off an incredible fourth-quarter comeback to beat Arizona 41-40 at Arizona Stadium on Nov. 24, knows some stories told about rivalry games are ultimately revealed to be "tall tales." But he now knows there's some truth to some of the stories that revolve around this particular rivalry, which includes the nation's oldest college football trophy.
"And so, you don’t know how much is added, how much is real. But there’s a lot of history involved in it. That’s kind of like the deal," he said.
Edwards has been a part of many rivalries during his playing and coaching career, including the Eagles-Cowboys rivalry when he played for Philadelphia in the NFL. After one game in Tucson, and getting an earful from red-clad UA fans for three-plus hours, he knows this rivalry is just as intense as that one.
"I thought the Philly fans were bad, because when we used to play the Cowboys, I know how bad our fans were," he said. "It’s something that I’ve been involved in now, and I appreciate it. I do."
Edwards and his coaching staff traveled back to Tucson one week after their Territorial Cup victory to scout some high school athletes at a state championship game. He said Wildcat fans were much more cordial to him on that day than they were the afternoon of Nov. 24.
"We actually went back into the stadium. That was a weird deal," he said. "Our coaching staff is coming down there, and some of the Arizona coaches are there, and we visited them on the sidelines watching the kids. I was like, this is kind of interesting.
"And the (Wildcat) fan base was pretty good. They were nice. They were actually nice when the game was over: 'Coach, congratulations,' you know. But the week of, and during the game? Interesting. It was interesting."