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ASU’s Devin Lucien makes big impact on one and only Territorial Cup game

Arizona State wide receiver Devin Lucien (15) runs in for a touchdown after the catch as Arizona cornerback DaVonte' Neal (19) defends during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York)

TEMPE, Ariz. — A year ago, Devin Lucien was playing football at UCLA, getting ready for the annual rivalry game against USC.

He’d end up catching a touchdown pass in the Bruins’ 38-20 win over the Trojans last November.

After graduating from UCLA in June, Lucien decided to make the uncommon move of transferring within the conference to play his final year of college football at ASU.

This November, the receiver played a huge role in the Sun Devils’ 52-37 win to bring the Territorial Cup back to Tempe for the third time in four years.

Lucien caught nine passes for a career-high 190 yards and his 59-yard touchdown catch put the Sun Devils up 14-0 in the first quarter. For his efforts, he was voted the Bob Moran Territorial Cup Most Valuable Player.

“The adjustment wasn’t as hard as most people would think,” Lucien said about his transfer last summer. “Just because the senior group that I had and they really took me in under their wings as soon as I got here.”

The Sun Devils needed help at the position after last year’s star Jaelen Strong opted to enter the NFL Draft. Lucien’s arrival was a godsend — especially on Saturday. Prior to his touchdown, Lucien had a 58-yard catch that set up ASU’s first score — an 8-yard romp by Demario Richard.

“Just being here, it really hasn’t been an adjustment,” he said. “To have a game like today, my hat goes off to everybody else who helped put me in a position to do what I did. It was great and I’m really at a loss for words because this is my first time really doing something in a rivalry game.”

It was really the first time Lucien had this big an impact in any game during his college career. He did have a 118-yard performance against Utah earlier this season. His best yardage output at UCLA came in his second game — 70 yards on three catches in a win over Nebraska as a redshirt freshman in 2012.

But Saturday, he was the man, and it couldn’t have come at a better time for Arizona State, which earned bowl eligibility for the fifth straight season.

Head coach Todd Graham said he wasn’t totally on board with taking a transfer from inside the conference, knowing Lucien would have only one year of eligibility at ASU.

“It was something I had to be sold on,” Graham said. “I’ve never done that. It’s hard in that short a period of time to understand how we do things and I’m going to tell you, it was hard for him. Because of how we work, and how we do things, the discipline, the structure and the rigor — not only on the field but academically and everything we do.

“He has been great. What a great kid. He has really exceeded what I thought he’d be able to do in that short period of time. Not that it’s right or wrong, but it’s just very different in how we operate and how we do things. For someone to come in, it usually takes them a little while to adjust, but I’m really proud of him.”

Graham lauded quarterback Mike Bercovici for being the driving force behind getting Lucien to Tempe.

“If not for Berc, I wouldn’t have done it,” the fourth-year head coach admitted. “He told me he’d make sure it got done right and it would be a positive deal and he did what he said he would do.”

Lucien now has 49 catches for a team-leading 730 yards and four touchdowns and he’s found the end zone in three of ASU’s last four games.

He’s also got the unique perspective of playing in two of the West coast’s most heated football rivalries, but he’s not ready to anoint one as superior yet.

“It’s two totally different games, honestly, just the whole feel and everything,” he said. “I’m not going to give the edge to either rivalry just to be politically correct, but I’ll tell you I had a lot more fun in this rivalry than the UCLA-USC rivalry.”

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