ASU football ends season with disappointing loss to Arizona in Territorial Cup

The Sun Devils finished the regular season sub-.500 for the first time under head coach Todd Graham

Tucson, Ariz. -- ASU football saw its season come to a disappointing end Friday night in a 56-35 loss to the Arizona Wildcats, surrendering the Territorial Cup in the process. 

The loss marks the first sub-.500 regular season for the Sun Devils (5-7, 2-7 Pac-12) under head coach Todd Graham, and dropped ASU out of bowl eligibility. 

The game seemed destined for a shootout right away, as Arizona won the opening toss and quickly put it to good use. Wildcats redshirt sophomore quarterback Brandon Dawkins took the third play from scrimmage 71 yards right up the gut and into the end zone for an early 7-0 lead.  

ASU's offense responded with a ten-play drive on its opening possession, but a 53-yard field goal attempt from senior kicker Zane Gonzalez sailed wide right -- just his second miss of the season -- and the margin remained at seven. 

Instead, it was a big play from the ASU defense that got the Sun Devils on the scoreboard. Sophomore defensive lineman Jojo Wicker sacked Dawkins in the backfield, knocking the ball lose in the process. Junior linebacker Koron Crump scooped up the ball and returned it 42 yards for a touchdown to tie the game, 7-7, midway through the first quarter.

After each team traded possessions, an interception from junior quarterback Manny Wilkins would set up the next score for the Wildcats. Dawkins capped off a six-play drive for Arizona with a 10-yard touchdown run -- his second of the game -- that gave the Wildcats the lead once again, 14-7, early in the second quarter. 

ASU's offense continued to struggle as the first half wore on, and Arizona took advantage. Following a quick three-and-out from the Sun Devils, Wildcats senior wide receiver Nate Phillips broke free for a 64-yard touchdown reception. 

Things didn't get much better for ASU on its next drive. Yet another turnover set up a score for Arizona -- this time a Wilkins fumble that gave the Wildcats the ball at the Sun Devil 23-yard line. Redshirt junior running back Zach Green quickly cashed in with a one-yard touchdown run to give Arizona a 21-point lead, its largest of the game. 

ASU managed to salvage the half with a late touchdown pass from Wilkins to senior wideout Tim White. The score brought the margin to 28-14, where it would stay heading into halftime. 

The Sun Devils seemed to carry the momentum from that score coming out for the second half. ASU took its opening drive 65 yards to find pay dirt for the second straight drive. A three-yard touchdown run from junior running back Kalen Ballage put the finishing touches on the nine-play drive, and brought the ASU back within seven.

That score would hold up for exactly 22 seconds as Arizona's offense was equally as prepared for its first possession of the half. A 56-yard run from Green set up a touchdown run from senior receiver Samajie Grant, putting the Wildcats on top, 35-21.

But the back-and-forth game continued as both teams lit up the scoreboard in Tucson. The two sides combined to score on the first four possessions of the second half. Despite ASU's revitalized offense, Arizona held a comfortable 42-28 lead midway through the third quarter. 

The Wildcats would all but put away but the game away with just under 12 minutes remaining. A 68-yard run from Dawkins brought the ball all the way down the ASU 2-yard line. Grant would take it from there, punching it in for his second score of the game, and giving Arizona a 49-28 lead. 

ASU's lone score of the fourth quarter came in the form of a one-yard touchdown catch from senior wide receiver Fred Gammage, who enjoyed a career game for the Sun Devils. The former walk-on hauled in 12 catches for 116 yards in a losing effort. 

Arizona added one more big play before the night was over -- a 63-yard touchdown run from Grant to give him the hat-trick for the contest, and the bring the score to its final margin of 56-35. The Wildcats rushed for a school-record 511 yards on a Sun Devil defense that had seen most of its struggles come against the aerial attack.

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