There has never been any rhyme or reason on who will win the Territorial Cup each year. And the 86th meeting of Arizona State and Arizona is no different. With both teams already bowl bound, not only would the oldest rivalry trophy go home with you, but a ‘better’ bowl game would await. Coach Graham’s two biggest preaching points, penalties and ball security almost doomed the Devils, but they took care of business and won 41 to 34 in Tucson tonight.
It seemed fairly obvious coming into tonights game that ASU’s defense should focus on Sophomore running back Ka’Deem Carey. If you stop him, then you can focus on Matt Scott and the powerful Arizona offense. First quarter stats for Carey? 48 yards and a touchdown. Not the way you want to start. But then, looking back on the 335 total rushing yards ASU did give up, it didn’t really matter as Matt Scott didn’t have his ‘A’ game. Despite the three touchdowns Scott threw, it was his three (almost 5) interceptions he did throw that decided the game. The first quarter ended 6-0 Arizona with the Sun Devils having four times the penalty yardage as they did passing yards.
Overlooked in the first quarter, ASU running back Marion Grice took over in the 2nd as he scored two touchdowns with over 60 yards on the ground. An Alonzo Agwuenu fumble deep in Arizona territory late in the quarter turned out to be a 10 point swing as ASU failed to score and Arizona drove down for a FG to send the game into half ASU 14, Arizona 9. Despite the turnover and five penalties for 56 yards in the first half, ASU had to feel good about the halftime score.
ASU’s play calling once again was troublesome during parts of this game. There were three examples of a very low percentage sideline fade/fly passes to receivers on third downs. None of them found their mark leading to a punt. When they weren’t trying that pass, they chose to run the ball up the gut of the defense only to get stopped. When the offense was moving, there was a great mix of runs inside and out and passes in the flat and across the middle. When ASU ran the option it worked almost every time, which led this reporter to question why Taylor Kelly doesn’t hold onto the ball more often when handing off to the tailback in that option scenario.
Unfortunately the wide receiver play mirrored the season. Rashard Ross had a couple of awful wide open drops for touchdowns and they (receivers) still have no concept of getting open or holding blocks downfield for their running backs. The 52 yard TD run by Grice was all him, with no assistance downfield. The two leading receivers were running back DJ Foster and all around player Jamal Myles, who just might have had his best game of the season with a few clutch plays.
ASU’s kicking game was an integral role in the victory over Arizona. Jon Mora made both of his field goals and Alex Garoutte made all of his extra points and had 5/8 touchbacks. And who I believe to be the best punter in the PAC-12, Josh Hubner averaged 50 yards a kick with his five punts. The return teams did a great job also as they limited the Wildcats to minimum yardage on all returns.
The outcome of the game was still to be decided up until the fourth quarter. ASU started the 4th with a 12 play 56 yard drive that ended in a field goal. The Wildcats marched downfield to the ASU 18 when Matt Scott decided to jump into a tackle and lost the ball which was returned to the ASU 44 by Deveron Carr. Out of the next six plays, Marion Grice handled the ball five times including the game tying touchdown. ASU’s defense stopped Arizona on a three and out and then Kevin Ayers blocked a Kyle Dugandzic punt which ASU recovered on the 8 yards line. Four seconds and a Cameron Marshall eight yard scamper, ASU was now suddenly up 34-27. With a little more than five minutes on the clock Matt Scott led the Wildcats down to the ASU 44 where he threw his third and most costly interception of the game to Robert Nelson, who returned the ball down to the Wildcat two yard line. Three plays later, QB Michael Eubank punched it into the end zone to put the Devils up 41-27. A late garbage touchdown by the Wildcats made it 41-34, but a failed on side kick allowed the Sun Devils to run out the clock as Arizona had exhausted their timeouts.
During the post game, the Territorial Cup made its rounds around Arizona Stadium. The players were first to parade the Cup across the field and then head Coach Todd Graham got a hold of it and made his way down to the railing surrounding the ASU fans. He then proceeded to run along the railing for all Sun Devil fans to touch it. Later in the post game presser, Graham said he gave the trophy to legendary coach Frank Kush, who then in turn gave it a kiss. “It was this game that was most important to Sun Devil fans”, said Graham. And so for the fourth straight year of this rivalry, the road team has won the game. Next up for the Devils? A call from someone either in Albuquerque, San Francisco, Las Vegas or El Paso.