A Curtis Hodges blocked punt and a Demonte King interception turned the tides in the 91st Territorial Cup as ASU brought the cup back to Tempe on Senior Day with a 42-30 win over the University of Arizona.
“There is nothing like winning this game. This game is special,” said Todd Graham following the win. “It was an exciting game and a fun game to watch.”
Arizona controlled the first half leading 24-14 heading into the locker room but a big hit on standout quarterback Khalil Tate on the final play of the first half saw Brandon Dawkins start the second half for the Wildcats.
“We saw that he [Tate] was banged up at the end of the half but we prepared for both quarterbacks and we just went out there and executed,” said senior defensive back Chad Adams on the Wildcats quarterback situation.
Despite the rough start, adjustments were made at the half and quarterback Manny Wilkins summed up the halftime talks with one sentence.
“We’ve been here before.”
Graham reiterated the statement from his quarterback.
“We were down ten points and I was fixing to say something and before I could they just said, ‘we’ve been here before, let’s just get the adjustments made’.”
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The adjustments were made and seen immediately as the ASU defense held Arizona to a three-and-out to open up the second half and then Curtis Hodges came up with one of the plays of the game, blocking a punt that rolled out of bounds at the Wildcats five.
Following the block, Demario Richard punched it into the end zone on his senior day to pull the game within three. Then the very next possession Demonte King, who was banged up earlier in the game, jumped in front of a poorly thrown pass by Dawkins that gave the Sun Devils great field position for the second straight drive.
On that ensuing offensive possession, Wilkins busted out his signature hurdle and then hit N’Keal Harry, who had a quiet first half, in the corner to give the Sun Devils their first lead 28-24, one they wouldn’t relinquish.
Tate returned to the game for Arizona but didn’t look the same as usual with the flashy play as he and Dawkins flipped back and forth until later in the third quarter when Dawkins took over officially.
Even with the lead the fourth quarter still provided the same excitement as the rest of the game as Dawkins picked up a 50-yard touchdown run to cut the lead to 35-30 after failing the 2-point conversion early in the quarter.
But the Sun Devils were able to keep the game on their side as Wilkins hit Harry one more time for a touchdown with under five minutes to play on an incredible catch on a fade route. Wilkins finished the game 11-17 with 163 yards and three touchdown passes.
“This one meant a lot to me for these seniors, these were guys that I came in with,” Wilkins said.
The rushing attack for the Sun Devils continued on through the second half as Richard tacked on one more rushing touchdown later in the game as he finished with 22 carries, 165 yards and two touchdowns. The game put him into fifth place all-time for rushing in ASU history.
“He’s just relentless, and I think other guys just feed off of it,” said Graham.
Richard still has one more game to move into fourth and possibly even third place all-time with a big bowl game performance.
The Sun Devils finish the regular season 7-5 and in second place in the Pac-12 South and will await their bowl destination in the coming weeks.