TUCSON — As the clock hit zero and ASU’s 41-34 Territorial Cup win over UA became official, the Sun Devils’ (7-5, 5-4 Pac-12) midfield celebration was understated — a true testament to the character coach Todd Graham has installed within the football program.
“We talked about it all week,” redshirt senior linebacker Brandon Magee said. “We said, ‘When we win this ball game, we are going to go over there, shake their hands and go off the field and celebrate with our fans. That’s how we do it at Arizona State.’”
The Sun Devils wanted to show respect to the Wildcats (7-5, 4-5 Pac-12) and “act like we’ve been here before,” Magee said, but the win was unlike any the 2012 team has been involved in.
Trailing 27-17 at the end of three quarters, ASU’s Territorial Cup hopes appeared to be in jeopardy. The majority of the 51,901 fans in attendance were on their feet, anticipating a Wildcat win for the second season in a row.
Redshirt sophomore quarterback Taylor Kelly and the entire ASU team had different plans.
“We come together when stuff hits the fan and adversity hits,” Kelly said. “I kept pacing the sidelines, telling the guys to keep the intensity up and stay focused. It’s not over until 0:00 hits the clock. We had to keep grinding and our guys did that and pulled the energy to get the win.”
Kelly and the ASU offense scored 24 unanswered points.
The win was a total team effort for ASU, and the fourth quarter was emblematic of that as five different players scored points.
Junior kicker Jon Mora started the fourth quarter with a 39-yard field goal. Then, the ASU rushing attack took over. The Sun Devils finished with 269 rushing yards. Senior running back Cameron Marshall, junior running back Marion Grice and redshirt freshman quarterback Michael Eubank all rushed for touchdowns in the decisive fourth quarter.
ASU’s offense amassed 460 total yards, but the play of the game occurred on special teams.
With the game tied at 27 and 5:46 left on the clock, senior safety Kevin Ayers blocked the UA punt. Ayers’s play set up Marshall’s touchdown and gave the Sun Devils a lead they would not relinquish for the rest of the game.
“Our special team’s effort been huge for us all season,” Magee said. “It really came through for us this year and interceptions played a role (tonight) too.”
The Sun Devils intercepted UA senior quarterback Matt Scott three teams and nearly had a fourth, but it was called back because of a penalty.
Redshirt senior safety Keelan Johnson redshirt junior cornerback Osahon Irabor and redshirt junior cornerback Robert Nelson all came away with turnovers.
Johnson was also credited with a forced fumble.
“We wanted to come in and establish ourselves defensively,” Graham said. “I’m proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish. I think we have an identity on defense.”
The four turnovers ASU was able to force certainly stand out, but the play of Magee and redshirt junior defensive tackle Will Sutton cannot be understated.
Magee finished with a career-high 17 tackles and became the first Sun Devil since Robert James in 2007 to accumulate over 100 tackles in a season.
“I was so tired,” Magee said. “I just told myself I had to keep going and do whatever it takes to win this game. I wasn’t going home a loser. Not today.”
Sutton finished the game with two tackles for losses and five total tackles, but his presence was felt in the UA backfield all night.
A rivalry win always makes a season better, and Magee summed up ASU’s victory in a few simple words:
“It tastes like sweet strawberry Kool-Aid if you ask me,” Magee said. “Beating UA is always a good cap to the season.”
Sutton had to be evaluated by trainers several times throughout the night and left the locker room wearing a walking boot on his right foot. Following the game, Graham said Sutton had x-rays taken of his foot.
Redshirt sophomore kicker Alex Garoutte has now made 97 straight extra point attempts.
Reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org