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Territorial Cup game blog: It’s the Devils’ night

Carl Bradford (left) and Will Sutton have helped ASU's defense  dominate the line of scrimmage. Photo by Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Carl Bradford (left) and Will Sutton have helped ASU’s defense dominate the line of scrimmage. Photo by Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

It’s over. Arizona State beat Arizona 58-21 and retains the Territorial Cup trophy, which the Devils took home last season with a win in Tucson.

Sloppy from the start, Arizona fell behind 27-0 and were turned away after making a couple of threats to get back into the game.

Arizona State finishes the regular season at 10-2 overall and 8-1 in the Pac-12.

“This is the best football team I’ve ever coached… both on and off the football field,” coach Todd Graham said.

Arizona ends the regular season in the same position as last season — 7-5 overall and 4-5 in the conference.

* * *

With this one all but over, I’ll be heading down to the field before the end of the game. Be back with Arizona reaction later …

* * *

And a third INT from B.J. Denker.

* * *

Tonight’s result means the Arizona State will host the Pac-12 championship game against Stanford next Saturday at Sun Devil Stadium. The Devils lost early in the season at Stanford, but have done nothing but improve and that game should at least be a toss-up.

* * *

D.J. Foster scores on a 7-yard run as ASU piles on to make it 51-21. This is the first time the Devils have reached 50 vs. Arizona since their Rose Bowl of 1996 scored 56.

* * *

Headed to the fourth quarter. ASU up 44-21 with the ball.

* * *

Arizona won the turnover battle 3-0 last week vs. Oregon. It is down 3-0 in that area tonight.

* * *

Attendance: 72,542. That’s the 12th-largest crowd in stadium history.

* * *

And now Arizona’s Daniel Jenkins loses a fumble on the kick return? Sounds about right. ASU’s De’Marieya Nelson caused it and recovered it.

* * *

ASU, again, stiff-arms Arizona as it threatens to get back into it. This time, a 61-yard TD pass to Jaelen Strong does the trick for a 44-21 lead. The key moment came one play earlier, when the Cats let ASU off the hook as Taylor Kelly scrambled for 17 yards on third-and-12.

* * *

B.J. Denker again does something wrong, but it all works out fine as he fumbles near the goal line after a run of 26 yards. The ball squirts forward into the end zone, where Garic Wharton recovers for a touchdown. Better lucky than good?

It’s 37-21, so not over yet late in the third quarter.

* * *

Well, that’s kind of a momentum killer. Just as UA is threatening to get back into it, free safety Damarious Randall steps into the passing line and picks off a B.J. Denker pass, with nothing but green grass in front of him. He goes 64 yards for a touchdown to make it 37-14 with 7:24 to go in the third quarter.

* * *

Arizona, with its SWAT team defense, sacks Taylor Kelly on third down and forces a punt. So, the Cats are still battling for momentum in this game and could make things a lot more interesting with another TD.

* * *

Ka’Deem Carey finishes an impressive opening drive of the second half with an 8-yard TD burst up the middle. That’s the Ka’Deem UA is used to seeing, as he rushed for 59 yards on that drive.

Arizona is down 30-14 … and now needs a play on defense.

* * *

There’s bigger chunks of yards available for Ka’Deem Carey on Arizona’s first drive of the second half, and he’s now over 100 yards.

* * *

Halftime: Arizona State is up 30-7. Ka’Deem Carey has 17 carries for 62 yards.

* * *

Arizona’s attempt to make a game of it is merely a blip. After the missed field goal, ASU quickly goes the other way, helped by a deep 50-yard pass to Jaelen Strong. Zane Gonzalez converts his third field goal of the game, from 23 yards, with 11 seconds left before the break.

ASU is up 30-7.

Instead of cutting the lead to 27-14, it went further south for Arizona in the final two minutes.

* * *

The ball goes through David Richards’ hands on third-and-5, and Rich Rodriguez decides to try Jake Smith for a 42-yard field goal instead of going for it. Smith does not reward his coach’s faith, missing wide left from 42 yards. That was an important kick for momentum and all late in the half.

* * *

Arizona finally counter-punches, getting two long pass plays — 23 yards to Trey Griffey and 30 yards to Garic Wharton — en route to a touchdown with 4:14 left before half. B.J. Denker, sprinting right, keeps on third-and-goal from the 1, and finds a lane to the end zone.

There’s still no room for Ka’Deem Carey up the middle — Will Sutton is a monster inside — but at least the Cats are on the board. ASU, 27-7.

* * *

Research courtesy of Shane Dale, author of “Territorial” …

ASU’s two biggest Territorial Cup victories in the last 30 years: 37-14 in 1991 (ending The Streak) and 56-14 in 1996 (Rose Bowl season).

* * *

Well, Arizona will always have Oregon.

It’s total ASU domination, as the Sun Devils score on a 31-yard drive after the interception and go up 27-0 with 8:04 to go in the half.

* * *

ASU has forced in a turnover in every game under Todd Graham, now including this one. B.J. Denker throws one up for grabs deep down the middle of the field, where safety Alden Darby is there to pick it off. ASU’s speed and pressure is too much for Denker so far.

* * *

Here’s another fourth down for Arizona. The Cats are at the ASU 45, needing 1 yard … and Ka’Deem Carey is stopped for no gain. Yikes. ASU’s front seven … yeah, pretty good.

* * *

Panic button. Where the panic button?

* * *

Arizona State scores again — and quickly. D.J. Foster scores on a 14-yard run to make it 20-0 with 12:58 to go in the second quarter.

Arizona won just about every key situation in last week’s win over Oregon. The Cats have a much lower batting average tonight vs. ASU.

* * *

Arizona would like its chances when giving Ka’Deem Carey the ball twice after third-and-2. He gains one yard to the ASU 40, where Rich Rodriguez decides to go for it (which was the right call), but the Devils get a huge push up the middle and toss Carey, stumbling backward, for a loss of 7.

It’s all ASU.

* * *

The first quarter ends with Arizona in desperate need of a response. The Cats have crossed midfield for the second time, but faces a third-and-2 from the ASU 41.

The Devils lead 13-0. Ka’Deem Carey has 23 yards on six carries.

* * *

Arizona State dominating early and this is going sideways on Arizona in a hurry, which means the game is in danger of turning ugly. ASU caps an 80-yard drive with a play-action pass to wide-open tight end Darwin Rogers, who could have sold popcorn on his way to the end zone.

ASU is up 13-0 with 2:38 to go in the quarter.

Arizona State's Darwin Rogers scores the first touchdown of the game. Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Arizona State’s Darwin Rogers scores the first touchdown of the game. Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

* * *

Arizona pushes the ball across midfield before punting, but doesn’t give the ball to Ka’Deem Carey until its eighth snap of the game. The Devils are hounding B.J. Denker, which is something they figured to do. ASU defense is twitching faster than Denker’s brain right now.

* * *

The Arizona defense hangs in there after ASU started a drive at the UA 24. The Wildcats force a 21-yard field goal by Zane Gonzelez, who makes it with 7:06 to go in the first quarter. Being down 6-0 isn’t so bad. Now, time to feed Ka’Deem.

* * *

Arizona’s opening drive is a disaster. The Cats have to avoid “negative” plays, which is what they did so well last week vs. Oregon. Well, UA starts its first possession with a delay-of-game penalty, followed by a tackle for loss on B.J. Denker, followed two plays later by a sack.

And the UA capped that with a 12-yard punt from Drew Riggleman.

Arizona’s special teams. Box of chocolates.

* * *

ASU strikes first, but strikes small. Zane Gonzalez puts the Devils on the board with a 38-yard field goal, which gives him 16 consecutive field goals in a row (although none longer than 41 yards).

Devils’ opening drive was methodical, covering 54 yards in 13 plays.

* * *

First “decision” comes for Todd Graham on fourth-and-1 at the UA 29. Actually, it’s not that hard of a call, as Graham and RichRod are go-for-it coaches. And the Devils pick it up with a rush of 3 yards.

* * *

ASU’s D.J. Foster gets the start at tailback in place of injured Marion Grice. Foster will move all over the formation, and usually has been in the slot. He’s simply an “offensive weapon.”

* * *

Arizona wins the toss and will defer … so here we go.

* * *

Boston College’s Andre Williams, who has emerged as the running back most likely to make a Heisman ballot, fizzled in his final regular-season game. He had 24 yards at halftime against Syracuse and then left in the third quarter with an injury, finishing with 29 total yards.

Ka’Deem Carey isn’t going to catch Williams in yards or yards per game, but a big game tonight could go a long way in terms of replacing Williams in people’s minds as the nation’s top back.

* * *

The Arizona Wildcats have about a dozen key players, including kickers, who have never been in Sun Devil Stadium for a Territorial Cup matchup.

You can tell them what to expect, but you can’t really prepare them.

“Walking out of the tunnel, when you have 80-year-olds looking down and flipping you off and yelling, cursing at you … there’s definitely no love lost,” said Arizona fifth-year senior linebacker Jake Fischer.

“You come out of high school and you think you know what a rivalry game is, and then you really don’t. Rivalries in the pros aren’t this good. Rivalries in high school aren’t even close. And then you go to your rival stadium in college, and it’s just a totally different atmosphere.”

It hasn’t seemed to matter much lately in the Arizona-Arizona State rivalry. The road team has won the past four games, each by a touchdown or less.

“I just think it’s an anomaly,” UA coach Rich Rodriguez said of the road team’s recent success. “I don’t think there’s any kind of reason for it, other than it’s really two equal teams that comes down to the last play or two.”

On the other hand, a road team can thrive in the ultimate us-against-the-world scenario.

“It’s your team against everybody,” Fischer said. “It’s special.”


Former Arizona coach Dick Tomey, who built from Larry Smith’s success in the rivalry, ran the program’s unbeaten streak to nine before losing to ASU in 1991.

He recalled this streak-era joke to Shane Dale, author of “Territorial,” the history of the rivalry:

A guy is in a bar, and there is a dog in the bar. The Arizona-ASU game is on TV; Arizona wins. The dogs says, “Bear Down, Arizona.” Amazed the guy asks the bartender, “What does he do if Arizona State wins?” And the bartender says, “I don’t know, he’s only nine years old.”

Dale posted the audio clip here.


Arizona State is a well-balanced team with much more margin of error than Arizona, which can hardly play more efficiently than it did last week. As with the Oregon game, I think the Wildcats need something good to happen to really early.

And B.J. Denker needs to have the game of his life to top last week’s game of his life. Arizona State is one of the most aggressive defensive outfits in the conference (and beyond), and Denker’s decisions in the zone-read attack will have to be spot on.

The Sun Devils likely will be without running back Marion Grice, which is significant. Late tonight, we might all be talking about the fumbling issues of backup Deantre Lewis.

Much stranger things have happened in this rivalry than an Arizona victory as it heads into a game in which it is about a 12-point underdog. But this looks like the Devils’ year.

Arizona State 34, Arizona 27.


Territorial Cup: Five things to watch

Snubbed by ASU, Arizona center Steven Gurrola eager for Devils

Territorial Cup flashback: ‘They looked like bananas

Territorial Cup: Beware the fourth-quarter comeback

B.J. Denker looks for legacy-making win vs. Arizona State

Ka’Deem Carey talks about nearly signing with ASU

No motivational gimmicks needed this week, RichRod says

Arizona Republic’s Paola Boivin: Five reasons why ASU will win the Territorial Cup

The Republic’s Doug Haller interviewed three Pac-12 Networks analysts for their Territorial take

FoxSportsArizona.com’s Jack Magruder looks at the rivalry’s biggest upsets

Steve Rivera writes about some UA “senior moments” at FoxSportsArizona.com

Shane Dale, who wrote “Territorial” about the rivalry, has his matchup analysis and prediction

Greg Hansen has his Mr. Football column at the Arizona Daily Star

The Arizona Daily Star’s Daniel Berk writes how freshman WR Samajie Grant is playing for mom’s memory

Javier Morales has ample Territorial Cup memories from ex-Cats at his site, WildAboutAZCats.net.

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