In his final Territorial Cup, Manny Wilkins proved that he was always the right man to lead this ASU football team.
Manny Wilkins has poured his heart and soul into the Sun Devil program.
Freshman year as a redshirt, the next season primarily off the bench and then another three years fighting for a starting job that he eventually won both times.
This season was the first year where Wilkins was most certainly the man in Tempe. The Sun Devils was his ship to command and the players were his to lead.
That’s why Wilkins had the final word before the Territorial Cup on Saturday. The Sun Devil quarterback being the last of a string of speakers to the team before their clash against Arizona in Tucson.
The importance of the Cup, the history of the rivalry and the impact of a win to Sun Devil fans. All talking points in, at least emotionally, the biggest game of the year for ASU.
Wilkins’ team responded to that message, escaping Tucson in a miraculous 41-40 comeback victory.
“(Arizona is) a losing team with a losing attitude,” said Wilkins.
Strong words from a veteran quarterback whose team was down by 19 at one point in the fourth quarter.
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But words that the ASU signal-caller could back up with his play.
Wilkins finished the evening with two total touchdowns, 265 passing yards and 57 rushing yards leading his team to a jaw-dropping 20-0 run in the fourth quarter.
But Wilkins was not the only Sun Devil to step up in the fourth.
At halftime, running back Eno Benjamin had 27 rushing yards on 12 carries. By the end of the night, Benjamin had 80 yards on the ground to go along with three touchdowns.
With a relatively mute performance from star receiver N’Keal Harry on the night (four catches for 55 yards), wide out Brandon Aiyuk had his best game of the season with five receptions for 106 yards and a touchdown.
After surrendering 40 points through three quarters of play, the Sun Devils defense looked defeated. But with a quarter left to play even they did not lose Wilkins’ message.
ASU’s defense only allowed 74 yards in the fourth quarter after giving up 446 total yards heading into the final stretch.
“It was probably mid-way through the third quarter when the flip was switched and all of a sudden, we get some positive yards,” Edwards said. “I thought our guys said that if we can just get within one score that we will be okay.”
Before the comeback, Arizona was simply the better team. Quarterback Khalil Tate was brilliant, throwing three touchdown passes while fixing broken down plays with his feet.
Running back J.J. Taylor finished the afternoon with 144 yards on the ground. Tight end Tony Ellison caught two touchdown passes while wide receiver Shawn Poindexter had 99 receiving yards and a touchdown in his final game in a Wildcats uniform.
With the loss, Arizona falls to 5-7 and will miss a bowl game for the second time in three seasons.
The Sun Devils, on the other hand, are winners. Not because they will finish the season with a winning record for a second straight season but because they stuck to a message. A message delivered by their leader, their quarterback.
“I told our team last night that this has been the year that I’m most proud of because of how much we fight, how hard we fight,” Wilkins said. “And there hasn’t been one game this year where we let up.”
All quotes in this article were obtained firsthand by Devils in Detail unless otherwise noted.