The Arizona State Sun Devils’ loss last week ended the chance to win the South title and play in the Pac12 championship game. I would imagine how hard it must have been to lose that game in the fashion they lost, and at your lowest, go on the road for the annual territorial cup game vs the University of Arizona had to be very difficult to do.
Head Coach Herm Edwards, all year long has been able to re-energize his team after every loss this year being a one-possession loss. They have surprisingly been competitive in every game and this big rivalry game would not be any different.
The Arizona Wildcats were coming off a 69-28 beat down to the hands of Washington State and were more motivated to get that bad taste out of their mouth heading into this game. So coming into the territorial cup game it would seem that U of A had all of the elements working in their favor.
The game looked that way as the Wildcats ran wild for three quarters and forgot there was the most important quarter left, the “finish” quarter. A quarter in which the Sun Devils have thrived in all season. Wildcats were up 19 points in the fourth quarter 40-21 and melted down with back-to-back turnovers and a conservative offensive attack.
Wildcat quarterback Khalil Tate ran free and gashed the Devils defense all game long and decided to stop running in the fourth quarter. That opened the door for the Devils lead by Senior quarterback Manny Wilkins to seize the game and snatch away what seemed impossible.
Coach Herm exercised great patience in this game. After the second turnover their drive stalled in the red zone with about 3:00 min to play, Herm elected to kick the field goal and rely on his opportunistic defense which had U of A shell-shocked. Devils were down 40-35 and the defense forced the fumble that would lead to the go-ahead score by an uprising star running back in Eno Benjamin.
Devils lead 41-40 after trailing all game long, and the Wildcats seemed to have gotten back in attack mode late as Tate threw two deep balls going for the knockout punch. Which did not happen as the shaken quarterback overthrew both wide open opportunities. U of A managed to get the ball in position for a game-winning field goal from 45 yards out with a kicker that had been perfect all day.
The kick sailed right and the Devils crowd took over the sound in the stadium, as the red and blue covered fans were stunned and quietly took to the exits. Sun Devils players and staff were running around the field in celebration, as they held up the territorial cup for the second straight year.
Manny took the cup and walked it to the screaming Devils’ faithful and all his teammates kissed the cup as they passed it around, it was an amazing game to behold. I caught up with Manny after the game and asked him about the turning point in this game, I alluded to the head-to-head collision he was involved in against a linebacker. Manny rushed outside and rather than running out of bounds, dropped his shoulder and took on a linebacker. That seemed to have fired up his team as he showed that no quit attitude. “I’m a dog and when its time to go get it that’s what I do,” said Wilkins.
Later during the celebration, we caught a shot of N’keal Harry with tears running down his face and arms stretched up high saying thank you to the Devils fans, as he perhaps may have played his last territorial cup game and his college playing career one Bowl game away from coming to an end.
Congratulations to the Arizona State Sun Devils on a very successful season under first-year coach Herm Edwards.
The Devils will make an appearance in a Bowl game, which is a big accomplishment that will hopefully attract more of Arizona recruits to stay home and represent for the local team.