DJ Taylor’s opening kickoff return set tone for ASU in Territorial Cup win
Arizona State freshman D.J. Taylor fulfilled his promise to head coach Herm Edwards on Friday night against the Arizona Wildcats.
He returned the football for a touchdown.
In what was the 94th edition of the Territorial Cup — the oldest rivalry trophy in college football — the true freshman started off the game by returning the kickoff for a 100-yard touchdown.
The score was a momentum boost that set up the Sun Devils for an eventual 70-7 win.
“We knew he was going to score. It was just a matter of them kicking the ball to him really,” teammate Jermayne Lole said.
“[It] just took all their hope out,” Taylor added.
Because ASU went into the game with a record of 0-2, Edwards stressed the importance of starting out fast, but he never imagined a 100-yard touchdown.
Last week against the UCLA Bruins, Taylor told Edwards, “I got you one.” And he almost did.
Taylor nearly took a UCLA kickoff to the house toward the end of the first half. Unfortunately for the returner, he was tripped on the play, which ultimately ended any chance of a return score.
But on Friday night, Taylor managed to come through on his promise to his head coach.
“When I heard we were on kick return for the first play, I was like I got to score,” Taylor said.
The run created a contagious energy that flowed throughout the game.
“I just wanna go, make a play, set the tone for the team… And do what I can do,” Taylor said.
The response from his teammates and coaches was “a whole bunch of love.”
Taylor could not stop watching the play after the game, adding that he watched it “like 100 times already.”
When ASU recruited him, they were most impressed by his speed and how much of an elite athlete he was, co-defensive coordinator Antonio Pierce said.
“He is dynamic. He is a good football player with great speed and a great feel for the game,” Pierce explained.
Taylor originally signed as a defensive back and in preseason saw some reps at the running back position. He has two attempts for five yards as a running back this season and has also made a pair of tackles.
The good news for Sun Devil fans is that Taylor still has a lot of time left in Tempe.
“He is going to be a really good player for us,” offensive coordinator Zak Hill said.