ASU’s wild fourth-down conversion seals upset victory over Washington

Oct 15, 2017, 1:07 AM | Updated: 1:20 am
Arizona State quarterback Manny Wilkins (5) signals a first down against Washington during the firs...

Arizona State quarterback Manny Wilkins (5) signals a first down against Washington during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 14, 2017, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

If there is one play fans are going to remember from Arizona State’s 13-7 upset win over No. 5 Washington, it will be the fourth-down conversion that sealed the win late in the fourth quarter.

With the Huskies scoring on their last drive and making it a one-score game with 5:32 left, the Sun Devils would need a long drive to ensure a 13-7 victory.

They would get it, but it wouldn’t come easy.

The 11-play, 58-yard drive came down to a 3rd-and-3 situation with 2:08 left on the clock on Washington’s 37-yard line. With Washington using their last timeout to stop the clock, quarterback Manny Wilkins surprisingly dropped back to pass, and the screen to N’Keal Harry was ruled as a dropped pass, which stopped the clock at 2:04.

While the Huskies had no timeouts, head coach Todd Graham had been making aggressive play calls throughout the drive, and instead of either punting or going for a deep field goal, Graham brought his offense out.

As 98.7 FM Arizona Sports Station’s own Vince Marotta pointed out, though, this is a situation in which Wilkins has punted himself and performed a pooch kick in the past.

Instead, Wilkins dropped back to pass and threw the ball immediately with the pass rush breaking through in a hurry.

When the ball soared through the air, it seemed as if everyone on the field for both teams had a chance to catch it.

In total, six players were around the ball. Arizona State’s own Kalen Ballage was one of them, who rised through the air to go for the catch, only to see the ball appear to go out of reach.

Ballage elected not to reach all out for the ball, potentially tipping it or even coming down with it in some way, and instead, watched it whizz past his head behind him.

In the split-second between Ballage’s jump and the eventual completion, it appeared to be a poor decision by Ballage. There were two Washington defenders waiting on the other side, but with Ballage rising, both looked to expect Ballage to catch the ball.

In a stunning visual, the ball found a window between those two Washington players.

That first defender, JoJo McIntosh, had the ball come as close as it possibly could to hitting his helmet without doing so. A second replay shows McIntosh jump late for the ball and angling his head, perhaps trying to head the ball away as if he was playing soccer.

The play was so awkward for the second defender, Jordan Miller, to make that a step-by-step replay shows he didn’t get a good enough break on the ball to traditionally lean over with his right hand to swat the ball away. Instead, he had to try and stick out his left hand as he tried to rapidly recover. His hand came within inches of the ball, but it would land in the hands of Arizona State’s Ceejhay French-Love.

French-Love showed an incredible presence of mind to stay focused on the ball, as the throw was in front of him and away from his body towards the sideline.

Somehow, he managed to lean backward, spin left and catch the ball without his body behind it for support.

French-Love would then rush down the sidelines for a gain of 30 yards and Arizona State would knee the ball down on the ensuing plays to complete the upset win.

Wilkins spoke after the game like the pass was indeed intended for French-Love, which would explain Ballage hanging in the air.

“[Ceejhay French-Love] made a hell of a play,” Wilkins said. “It was a low ball and for a tight end that guy has really good ball skills and he just trusted his training and we executed there at the end to seal the game.”

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