ASU football sends the Wildcats back to Tucson empty handed

The Sun Devils went down early, but down didn't mean out

With ASU basketball reeling in boatloads of fans, ASU football wasn’t ready to relinquish the hype quite yet as the Sun Devils (7-5, 6-3 Pac-12) captured the Territorial Cup after a win over UA. The Sun Devils' second-half whooping of the Wildcats (7-5, 5-4 Pac-12) ended with ASU on top 42-30.

For the fourth-straight game senior running back Demario Richard rushed for more than 100 yards. Richard’s presence was felt as he pounded his way to 165 rushing yards and two scores.

“In the beginning of the year, we were only predicted to win three games. We went seven and five – we exceeded expectations,” Richard said. “We should’ve won more – some games we shot ourselves in the foot, but we came out on top. No, we didn’t want to be No. 2 in the (Pac-12 South) – of course we wanted to be No. 1 but it’s all in God’s plan.”

While Richard did his dirty work inside the tackles, sophomore wide receiver N’Keal Harry took the UA secondary for a ride outside the numbers. 

Harry’s four catches and 43 yards might not blow you away, but his two receiving touchdowns are sure to do the job.

Although ASU’s best offensive weapons performed at a high level, the Sun Devils found themselves trailing the Wildcats by 10 going into halftime.

“We started out slow but we continued to say before the game we knew that they got to play us for 60 minutes,” redshirt junior quarterback Manny Wilkins said. “We got a lot of momentum there coming out of half and that was the turning point in the game and we just handled business.”

It was the surge from ASU’s defense paired with the sudden absence of UA’s sophomore quarterback Khalil Tate that made the difference. 

“We knew that we hobbled him (Khalil Tate) in the end and hit him pretty good in the first half but the other guy (Brandon Dawkins) is explosive too. I wouldn’t say just as explosive because Tate is pretty special,” head coach Todd Graham said. 

Tate finished the game with 132 passing yards and a surprisingly low total of 28 rushing yards. 

“He got hurt and banged up. He tried to go, but couldn’t go, so the other guy (Brandon Dawkins) went in,” UA head coach Rich Rodriguez said. 

Tate's one rushing touchdown put the Wildcats up 14-0 in the first quarter, but the second-half turnaround was due, in part, to a blocked punt from freshman wide receiver Curtis Hodges.

Hodges blocked punt presented ASU’s offense with a scoring opportunity.

As a whole, the game mirrored the 41-30 win the Sun Devils had over the Colorado Buffaloes on Nov. 4.

In both games, ASU was down 10 at halftime, and both times the Sun Devils’ ground attack overwhelmed the opposing defense. 

Despite the varying contributing factors, the Territorial Cup now resides in Tempe. 

Nevertheless, that might not have been the glaring question surrounding the team today. Talk of a coaching change continues to swirl around ASU, but a double-digit win over the Wildcats still seems to leave Graham’s future in purgatory. 

“I think we made great strides,” Graham said. “I’m really proud of this senior group getting this thing back on track where it needs to be. I want to take these guys to a bowl game and go get our eighth win.”


Reach the reporter at atotri@asu.edu or follow @Anthony_Totri on Twitter.   

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