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One shining moment: Beirne delivers vs. ASU after five-year wait

Bryson Beirne is set to deliver the game-winning pass. Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Bryson Beirne has been an Arizona Wildcat for 62 games. He has waited for 62 games. He has waited through several hundred practices, through wind and rain and scorching heat.

He has waited behind the two most prolific quarterbacks in Arizona history — Willie Tuitama and Nick Foles. He has waited behind Matt Scott.

He has waited as the offensive coordinator who recruited him — Mike Canales — moved on. He waited as the next coordinator, Sonny Dykes, moved on.

He has waited and worked. Always worked.

He waited until there were 6 minutes and 10 seconds left in the penultimate game of his college career.

This, finally, was his time: Saturday night in Tempe against Arizona State.

Foles was gingerly coming off the field, with pain in his lower back and side. Arizona had the ball at the ASU 28. It was second-and-9, Cats trailing 27-24.

“Tell me if you’re all right,” Beirne said to Foles.

“Dude, I don’t know,” Foles replied.

“All right,” Beirne said. “I’m going to go win this thing.”

And so he did.

After a running play set up third-and-4, Beirne lined up in the shotgun. ASU was sending a blitz. Beirne surveyed the man coverage and saw fearsome linebacker Vontaze Burfict in the middle of the field.

“Vontaze was standing over the center, just looking at me,” Beirne said.

Beirne took the snap, backpedaled a bit, then let loose his only pass of the night, his 12th pass of the season, the 17th pass of his career.

He hit Juron Criner, coming to the middle from the left side on a screen pass, and then Criner did the rest, spinning out of a tackle, knocking down center Kyle Quinn and keeping on going until he had scored on a 23-yard play for what proved to be the game-winning score in a 31-27 victory.

“I sprinted to the goal line,” Beirne said. “I almost tackled him I was so stoked that he did that.”

It only takes one play, especially in a rivalry, to define a career.

Beirne’s pass was just a pass, no special degree of difficulty, except for the circumstances, except that this team needed a victory in this game to feel something good about the season. Interim coach Tim Kish called Beirne’s composure “phenomenal.”

“I’m a reflection of my parents and my coach,” Beirne said, referring to quarterbacks coach Frank Scelfo.

“My parents are always calm and my coach is ever calmer. He told me what I had to do. I just went out and played football. I have been playing this game since I was 10 years old. Obviously, it’s the Territorial Cup and all that rah-rah stuff, but when it came down to it, it’s a game.”

Beirne came out for one more series as Arizona tried, unsuccessfully, to gain a first down by rushing and drain the clock. ASU got the ball back and had enough time to attempt two passes in the end zone in the final 10 seconds, but both were broken up.

As the Wildcats poured off the sideline in celebration, Beirne stayed alone on the bench. He said a prayer. He offered thanks. He reflected, amid the chaos, on what had just happened.

Calm amid the chaos. That just about sums up the touchdown pass that will live in rivalry history.

It was all worth the wait.

“I work hard, no matter if I’m going to play or I don’t play. That’s just the way I was raised,” Beirne said.

“I’m really grateful that I did go out there, but I’m not seeking any type of validation or ‘praise me’ just because I put my head down and kept working. That is what I’m expected to do.”


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