2016 ─ Wildcats Get Their Revenge
In 2016, it was the year of broken droughts with the biggest, of course, being the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs broke an over century-long curse of 108 years without winning the World Series with their victory in 2016.
What else was happening in a year that seemingly doesn’t feel that long ago? The now uber-popular musical “Hamilton” had just burst onto the scene and won 11 Tony’s, including the prestigious best musical.
While the Cubs and Hamilton enjoyed success, it was more of the same for ASU, as the Sun Devils’ sharp decline under Graham continued.
The team appeared to have righted the ship early on in the season behind first-time starter Manny Wilkins and a rushing attack that included now Miami Dolphins running back Kalen Ballage along with Demario Richard.
The trio of players carried the team to a quick 4-0 start with victories over NAU, Texas Tech, UTSA, and California. After the hot start, an injury to Wilkins quickly derailed the team.
Backups Brady White and Dillon Sterling-Cole mixed in with a less than 100 percent Wilkins led to the Sun Devils losing six of their next seven games leading up to the matchup against Arizona.
The Wildcats entered the matchup dealing with similar struggles of their own after winning two of their first three games. After avenging an opening day loss to BYU with two straight wins, Arizona proceeded to lose eight straight heading into the Territorial Cup.
After struggling to do much of anything on the year, Arizona came out swinging and defeated Arizona State 56-35. The Wildcats walked over, ran through, around, and past the Sun Devil defense all night in route to a school-record 511 yards on the ground.
The onslaught came from a trio of Arizona players like quarterback Brandon Dawkins, along with running backs Samajie Grant and Zach Green who all ran for over 125 yards the game with Dawkins leading the group at 183.
With the loss, ASU dropped to 5-7 while losing seven of the team’s last eight games after what appeared to be a promising 4-0 start. The failure to reach six wins put the Sun Devils out of bowl contention for the first time under Graham and was what we know now to be the beginning of the end for his time in Tempe.