Fork Report: Territorial Cup returns to Tempe as ASU takes down Arizona
TEMPE, Ariz. — Welcome back, Territorial Cup.
After a one-year absence, the nation’s oldest rivalry trophy is back in the hands of the Arizona State Sun Devils.
A strong second half, led by Demario Richard, propelled ASU past Arizona, 42-30, in front of a sold-out Sun Devil Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
The 91st annual Duel in the Desert goes to the home team for the fifth straight game in the series.
On Senior Day, Richard, in his final home game, rushed for 165 yards and two touchdowns to help the Sun Devils overcome a 10-point halftime deficit.
For his efforts, Richard was named the Bob Moran Player of the Game.
The Wildcats scored on their first four possessions and led 24-14 at halftime. But an injury to quarterback Khalil Tate forced Arizona (7-5, 5-4) to turn to backup Brandon Dawkins in the second half and the Wildcats were unable to sustain their momentum.
ASU (7-5, 6-3) outscored UA 28-6 in the second half, highlighted by a 21-point third quarter in which Richard scored both of his touchdowns.
The victory clinched second place in the Pac-12 South and the Sun Devils’ first winning season since 2014.
On back-to-back first-half possessions, Kyle Williams and Kalen Ballage each recorded their sixth touchdowns of the season. Williams scored on an 18-yard catch that put the Sun Devils on the board for the first time, 14-7, at the 1:16 mark of the first quarter. Ballage, meanwhile, scored a one-yard run that pulled the Sun Devils to within 17-14 at the 5:45 mark of the second quarter.
On back-to-back third-quarter possessions, special teams and defense led to touchdowns. First, Curtis Hodges blocked a punt. Two plays later, Richard scored from one yard out. Then, Demonte King intercepted a pass. Eight plays later, N’Keal Harry scored on a five-yard catch; the latter of which put the Sun Devils in front for the first time in the game, 28-24, at the 8:50 mark of the period.
After a quiet first half, Richard exploded for 60 rushing yards and two touchdowns in the third quarter. His second score, a six-yard run, capped an eight-play, 75-yard drive that increased the Sun Devils’ lead to 35-24 at the 2:18 mark of the period. Richard, who had just 14 rushing yards on eight carries at halftime, averaged 10 yards on his six third-quarter carries with a long of 35 yards.
Four drives into the ballgame—two by each team—and the Wildcats had outscored, 14-0, and outgained, 93-4, the Sun Devils after a little more than six minutes had been played. Even worse, the Sun Devils were flagged for three penalties totaling 30 yards, including defensive pass interference and horse collar tackle calls.
It was a near perfect first half for Tate throwing the football. He completed all five of his attempts in the first quarter and then another five in the second quarter. It wasn’t until his last throw of the half—in which he appeared to hurt his shoulder—that a ball hit the ground. At halftime, Tate had completed 10-of-11 passes for 122 yards.
Special teams wasn’t all good for the Sun Devils. A poor punt by the Wildcats was accidentally touched by Ballage late in the third quarter. The Wildcats recovered and six plays later scored on a 50-yard run by Dawkins to pull the visitors within 35-30 (the two-point try was unsuccessful) at the 13:04 mark of the fourth quarter.
STAT OF THE GAME
100+: Richard for the fourth straight game and 13th time in his career rushed for better than 100 yards
HE SAID IT
“They don’t get any better,” said head coach Todd Graham, who improved to 4-2 against the Wildcats. “Got this cup back where it belongs.”
Harry has now recorded at least one reception in all 24 games he’s played in at ASU.
Richard became only the fifth player to rush for 3,000 yards during his career at ASU.
Six times (Hodges twice) now the Sun Devils have recorded a blocked punt this year.
Dasmond Tautalatasi returned after missing the past two games because of an injury.
With the victory, the Sun Devils ensured a fourth winning season in the past six years.
With the victory, the Sun Devils improved to 30-10 at home over the past six seasons.
The Sun Devils won the toss and elected to receive, something they last did Sept. 16.
The Sun Devils honored 19 seniors prior to kickoff; they played their final home game.
Representatives from two bowls, the Holiday Bowl and Sun Bowl, were in attendance.
Scouts from three NFL teams: the Cardinals, Giants and Raiders, were in attendance.
For the fifth time in six seasons under Graham, and sixth time in seven seasons overall, the Sun Devils are bowl-bound. The question now is when and where.
The Pac-12 has ties to seven different bowl games.
Most have ASU projected to play in either the Las Vegas Bowl (vs. Mountain West Conference, Dec. 16), Cactus Bowl (vs. Big 12, Dec. 26) or Sun Bowl (vs. ACC, Dec. 29).
The Sun Devils most recently played in the Cactus Bowl, losing to West Virginia after the 2015 season, 43-42, at Chase Field.