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Senior day was an emotional afternoon for ASU football

ASU football came out on top at the seniors' final home game


ASU redshirt senior quarterback Manny Wilkins (5) gets emotional at the end of the Sun Devils' 31-28 victory and his last home game against the UCLA Bruins at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona, on Saturday, Nov. 10, 2018.

It was difficult to overshadow ASU football's 31-28 win over UCLA, but the fact that it was the last game in Sun Devil Stadium for a few seniors was the underlying element that stole the show from all other highlights and implications of Saturday's game.

“I told myself to let myself soak this moment up,” redshirt senior quarterback Manny Wilkins said. “I knew I was going to be very emotional … I’m a very emotional person, and I knew I was going to cry. I tried to tell myself I wasn’t going to. I still knew I was going to, but I knew when it was time to flip the switch.”

Wilkins was able to flip that switch, and the rest of the team followed in a game that built up in intensity as it moved along. There were certainly lulls that both the offense and the defense had to pull out of, but that was made easier by the motivation of it being the last game at home for so many Sun Devils. 

“We just stayed the course,” Wilkins said. “They knew what we were going to run. We knew what we were going to run. It’s all about who wants it more and I think you can see it. There’s a look in our eye right now, and we damn sure wanted it. We still want it.”

The emotions surrounding senior day made it easier for the Sun Devils not to think outside of the moment. This is even more impressive considering the win against UCLA allowed ASU to become eligible for a bowl game, and it gave the team its third win in a row. 

“Knowing it was our last (home) game, we had to get it done,” redshirt freshman defensive lineman Tyler Johnson said. “We had to get that win to be bowl eligible. With the defense that we have, the offense that we have, we want to be dominant on both sides, and everyone understands that. That’s the message we’re trying to put out there. That’s the image that we want to make clear. We’re going to keep going. We’re going to keep fighting.”

There was a lot going on in Saturday's game, and there was a lot of milestones broken in the midst of it all. After ASU ran the ball 59 times and had possession of the ball for 36 minutes, sophomore running back Eno Benjamin broke and re-set ASU's all-time rushing record in the Pac-10 and Pac-12 eras, as he has now picked up a season total 1,295 yards on the ground.

“It was just we’ve got to win this game to get where we want to get to,” Benjamin said. “I think the defense, they have to settle a little bit. We came out a bit sluggish, the receivers helped us a lot. In the run game, we came out a little bit flat. The second half, we got things going just to pick up that slack from the first half.”

Benjamin had no idea that he was close to breaking the record, nor that he broke it. However, it was something he let go of immediately because, like Wilkins said, the team only wants “team accolades” as they move from this win to the two remaining games in the season. 

“It was important that these seniors left that field with a win,” head coach Herm Edwards said. “We talked about it all week. This will be the last time they’d be playing in the stadium this year. That was on everyone’s mind ... It’s tough on everybody. We got through it, and we won another game.”

Reach the reporter at or follow @paige_burnell on Twitter.   

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