Saturday afternoon's Territorial Cup will likely be remembered as a historic one, and even more so for the first rivalry meeting in the Herm Edwards era.
The Sun Devils trailed 40-21 entering the fourth quarter. With the game looking out of reach, Edwards and his troops looked as if they might have to surrender the Territorial Cup trophy back to their in-state nemesis.
But calm, cool and collected, and with the help of a few Arizona miscues, ASU somehow found a way to claw its way back into the game. And with a never say die attitude, the players took on a poise that was similar to their head coach, and it resulted in a triumphant 41-40 comeback victory.
"There was so much adversity throughout this whole game," ASU redshirt senior quarterback Manny Wilkins said. "We just stayed poised, and stayed trusting the game plan. There was nobody pointing fingers when something went wrong, and that's why we finished with one more point than they did."
At the beginning of the season, not many people knew what to expect between Edwards and his adversary on the other sideline on Saturday afternoon. Edwards and Arizona head coach Kevin Sumlin both were coaching for the first time in the rivalry matchup.
Before both coaches even were on a sideline in a game this season, there were a lot of naysayers and questions about the newly-hired commanders. With the hopes of securing bowl eligibility for Arizona, Sumlin and Edwards dueled to the very finish.
The numbers in Saturday's game speak for themselves. Arizona had more total, passing and rushing yards than ASU.
At the beginning of the third quarter, the game looked bleak for the Sun Devils. But blended to the DNA of its stoic head coach, ASU kept pushing forward.
"If you watch me, I'm not a panic type of guy. I have been in too many of these games," Edwards said. "Football is a funny game. It's momentum. It's a play or two .. .Everything kind of came together. I just think it's the way you go about things."
What could have easily been written off as an Arizona blowout win in Edwards' first game against the Cats instead turned into a thrilling comeback for the head coach, and it was quite an experience in a rivalry that runs deep.
"This week, I read up on it a whole bunch (the rivalry), but I actually had people that played in it and coached in it talk to me," Edwards said. "Manny (Wilkins) was the last person I talked to about the rivalry and what this meant. It's been quite a rivalry. 119 years. That's a long time, and it kind of gets overlooked because of the teams back East or the Midwest ... This has been going on for a long time, and there are a lot of passionate fans."
Before the game even started on Saturday, Arizona and ASU had a couple altercations in pre-game warm-ups. Some chatter and some confrontation ensued. Wilkins labeled the jawing and trash talk as "ignorant."
During the actual game, ASU sophomore running back Eno Benjamin had three rushing touchdowns, including a couple where he showed some rare emotion, or "passion," as Benjamin described it. All of these heated elements were what made the rivalry game great.
"I don't think it was emotion, I just think it was being passionate," Benjamin said. "I knew what this game meant to every one on our team and everyone that has played in this game previously."
All the heated intensity mixed with the cool demeanor of Edwards helped solidify a win.
"The guys played hard," Edwards said. "Fantastic game to watch if you are a football fan and you watched these guys play."
Regardless of the game, a 7-5 regular season record still isn't what Edwards hoped to accomplish, especially when ASU could have controlled its own destiny after losing to Oregon last week. There is more to build for the leader of the program.
"We didn't win the Pac-12. We had an opportunity to do that," Edwards said. "I think for some people, they will say it was a good season. We got a bowl, which is good for the kids. That's not the bowl I would like to play in, but it's a bowl, and we will improve. We got a long way to go. Now the big thing for us is to get into recruiting mode ... We got some players for you (next season). That's our next message."