ASU’s run game dismantles Arizona in dominant Territorial Cup win
Well, 2020 continues to be a memorable one.
The 94th showing of the Territorial Cup between the Arizona State Sun Devils and Arizona Wildcats, the most anticipated game of the year for those in the Grand Canyon State, could be summed up in as few as 56 seconds.
That’s not a typo. Less than a minute.
Simply put, the Sun Devils got the ball in their hands and ran it right down the Wildcats’ throat on their way to a 70-7 shellacking of the host team from Tucson.
“It was a relief,” head coach Herm Edwards said after the win. “I felt for the coaching staff and I felt for our players. … We started [the season] and then we stopped. … Just the ups and downs of this [coronavirus-impacted season] has been something that I’m not familiar with. I don’t think anyone’s familiar with it.”
Striking early and often like lightning in an Arizona monsoon storm, the Sun Devils had little trouble using their legs to put the Wildcats away in a hurry.
The first nail in the coffin came on the first play of the game.
Wasting little time to make a memorable impact on the game, freshman D.J. Taylor took the opening kickoff from inside the end zone for the first touchdown of the evening.
It marked ASU’s first kickoff return TD from a true freshman since Tim White did it in 2015, and was the first opening kick returned for a touchdown since 2011 (Jamal Miles).
“108 yards, that guy was gone,” co-defensive coordinator Antonio Pierce said after the game. “Everyone in the headset is like, ‘No! Go!’ That was the quickest no to go I’ve ever seen.”
Before either side could catch their breath, the Sun Devils were yet again in the end zone.
In just the Wildcats’ second play from scrimmage, the Sun Devils defense got in on the highlight reel quickly forming, forcing a Gary Brightwell fumble on Arizona’s four-yard line.
Freshman running back DeaMonte “Chip” Trayanum did the rest of the work, rumbling four yards for the touchdown on the ensuing play. Fourteen points, 56 seconds.
The legs of sophomore Jayden Daniels added to the onslaught later on in the first quarter following an Arizona turnover on downs.
Staring at a third-and-three situation, Daniels kept it himself, turning up field and using a spin move to break free to pay dirt. The scamper extended ASU’s lead to 21-0, the most the Sun Devils have scored in the opening quarter all season. Not only had ASU not had a first-quarter TD entering this game, they had only scored three points.
It was a precursor for what was yet to come.
The second quarter started much like the first, with an Arizona fumble providing another opportunity for the Sun Devils.
And what a way did they seize it.
On the second play of the possession, junior running back Rachaad White turned the fumble into six points with a monster 93-yard run for the team’s fourth touchdown in a little more than a quarter of action.
Joining in on the running attack to help finish off the first half was freshman Daniyel Ngata, who scored from three yards out with just over five minutes to go in the half. ASU scored the first six touchdowns before the Wildcats could find the end zone. The Sun Devils took a 42-7 lead into halftime.
“Those guys, Chip and Daniyel, and obviously Rachaad in the mix too, those guys are phenomenal backs,” offensive coordinator Zak Hill said postgame. “I don’t know if there are three backs in the country that are better than those guys. Those guys are really, really good. Having those guys set the tone was awesome.”
If it’s not broke, don’t fix it. The Sun Devils had little to change during halftime.
Leaning on the running game as it did in the first half, ASU continued to twist the knife, as White found the end zone twice more from one- and two-yards out.
All told, White finished the night with a game-high 133 yards and three scores on 10 carries (13.3 yards per attempt). For his efforts, he was named the Bob Moran MVP of the Territorial Cup.
“It’s an award that goes to me but it’s a team award,” White said after the game. “I predicated all my success off of all the guys of offense. Guys in the running back room that pushed me and coaches that pushed me and put me in great situations. So for me, the award, it means so much to me but to me it’s a team thing.”
He ends the three-game regular season with 262 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 29 carries. He also added six receptions for 123 yards and a score.
As a team, the Sun Devils had five rushers score, totaling 268 yards and seven touchdowns as ASU scored the most points in Territorial Cup history.
“You kinda feel [ the defense deflating] as the game’s going on,” White said. “They had a good gameplan at first … but as a running back you just have to understand linemen, they will come and do their job and block somebody … You gotta take care of the rest.
“Our coach preaches, ‘Take what they give you’ because you never know, that 93-yarder, when a chance comes, an opportunity comes you gotta make the best that you can make out of it.”
Edwards said he wanted the team to bring its own energy ahead of Friday night’s showdown. Message received loud and clear.