ASU football rallies to take down Cal, 51-41 in Pac-12 opener

The Sun Devils got the win thanks to big defensive plays.

After trailing for most of the game, ASU football used two key interceptions and an onside kick return for a touchdown to rally for a 51-41 comeback win over California in its Pac-12 opener.

The Sun Devils remained undefeated at 4-0 with the win, and improved to 1-0 in Pac-12 play.

After each team went three-and-out on its opening drive of the ballgame, Cal got the scoring started with a 19-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Davis Webb to freshman receiver Demetris Robertson. The toss capped a nine play, 98-yard scoring drive as the Bears (2-2) took an early 7-0 lead. 

ASU gave the ball right back on its following drive thanks to a Manny Wilkins interception deep in Sun Devil territory. Cal failed to take advantage, however, as a missed field goal from kicker Matt Anderson kept its lead at seven.

The Sun Devils found their way onto the scoreboard late in the first quarter with a 35-yard field goal from senior kicker Zane Gonzalez. The make gave Gonzalez 82 career field goals, moving him into first place on ASU's all-time list.

Cal extended the lead with its first drive of the second quarter. Webb found senior wideout Chad Henson for a 20-yard touchdown toss for the Bears' second touchdown. As ASU's offense struggled to get in rhythm, Cal added a field goal from Anderson to go on top 17-3.

ASU answered on the next possesion with it's only touchdown of the half. Wilkins scampered for an eight-yard touchdown run to get the Sun Devils back within seven, but the momentum wouldn't last long.

Cal quickly took the ball right back down the field, going 82 yards in just over a minute to steal the points back before halftime. Webb found redshirt freshman receiver Brandon Singleton for a 23-yard touchdown pass, and The Bears outgained ASU 368-138 in the first half — taking a 24-10 lead into the locker room.

ASU would strike first out of the break, going 75 yards on 11 plays, capped by a one-yard touchdown run from Manny Wilkins. The score was Wilkins's second of the game on the ground, and cut Cal's lead back down to seven.

The two teams would then exchange third quarter field goals as ASU faced a 27-20 deficit entering the final period.

After a few key stops from the Sun Devil defense, ASU tied the game with Manny Wilkins' third touchdown of the game. The three-yard score finished off a seven play, 62-yard drive for the Sun Devils, bringing the game back even for the first time since it was 0-0.

As it did for most of the game, Cal came up with an answer on its next drive. Webb dumped the ball off to junior wideout Tre Watson, who took it 74 yards to the house as Cal grabbed the lead right back, 34-27, with just over nine minutes remaining in the game.

The Sun Devils wouldn't go away, however, and had an answer of their own on the next drive. Wilkins dropped a 30-yard touchdown pass to sophomore tight end Jay Jay Wilson as ASU once again knotted things up.

The game would turn on the next play from scrimmage when senior linebacker Salamo Fiso intecepted Webb for the ASU defense's first forced turnover of the game. Fiso returned the pick 22 yards to the Cal 18, setting up a go-ahead field goal from Gonzalez.

ASU's defense would one-up itself on Cal's next possession, however. Redshirt senior linebacker Laiu Moeakiola all but put the game away with a 28-yard pick-six, bringing the crowd at Sun Devil Stadium to its feet.

Cal added a touchdown pass to make things interesting, but junior linebacker D.J. Calhoun would take the ensuing onside kick back for a touchdown to add insult to injury, bringing the final margin to 51-41.

The Sun Devils will now look ahead to a road matchup with USC next week at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

Reach the reporter at or follow @mattGfaye on Twitter

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