The 91st Territorial Cup proved a couple of things: home-field advantage is everything in a rivalry game and that Khalil Tate is Arizona football.
It was a simple choice.
Attempt a 62-yard field goal. Or put the ball in the hands of Khalil Tate for the final play of the first half.
Little did Rich Rodriguez know how costly his decision would be in Arizona State’s 42-30 Territorial Cup victory.
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As time expired, Tate delivered a ball downfield that fell incomplete and absorbed a big hit to his shoulder. He remained on the field momentarily before heading into the locker room with the Wildcats leading 24-14.
The sophomore spent the first 30 minutes of the game picking apart the Sun Devils defense, completing 10 of 11 passes for 127 yards and a rushing touchdown. ASU had no answer for Tate through the air or on the ground.
When Arizona took the field out of the break, Brandon Dawkins was under center in place of the injured Tate. That alone was enough for Sun Devil fans to feel a sense of hope.
It took six offensive snaps for momentum to swing in favor of the Sun Devils.
First, it was freshman Curtis Hodges who used all of his 6-foot-7 frame to block a punt following Arizona’s second three-and-out of the afternoon. Senior Demario Richard punched in a score from one yard out two plays later.
The Wildcats offense came back out with the game starting to slip away. Three plays later, junior Demonte King stepped in front of a Dawkins pass for an interception at the Wildcats 30-yard-line that sent Sun Devil Stadium into a frenzy.
Rodriguez attempted to go back to Tate but by that point it was too late. The Sun Devils had gained control of the game on both sides of the ball.
The Wildcats went 6-of-8 on third down in the first half and finished 7-of-16. On the other hand, Arizona State was 4-of-7 and ended the game 11-of-15.
ASU outscored Arizona 28-6 after halftime with Richard leading the charge. He had 151 of his 165 yards and two touchdowns in the second half and sealed the game with a 63 yard burst up the middle from his own 5-yard line.
Now that the Cup is back in Tempe, Rodriguez will be left with the question “What if?” after Tate’s injury changed the outlook of a game the Wildcats were controlling.