Arizona State takes away the Territorial Cup with 41-34 win at No. 24 Arizona
Arizona’s running back Ka’Deem Carey set the school’s single-season rushing record, but it was the opportunistic Arizona State defense and tailback Marion Grice who had the memorable night Friday as the Sun Devils took home the Territorial Cup with a 41-34 victory at a sold-out Arizona Stadium.
Carey had 172 yards on 25 attempts and a touchdown for No. 24 Arizona (7-5, 4-5 Pac-12) but Arizona State’s Grice ran just as well with 156 yards and three scores. What made the difference, though, was the active Sun Devil defense that penetrated the backfield all game and forced quarterback Matt Scott to commit four turnovers.
“It was definitely a high energy, high emotion game — I didn’t expect it to be any different,” said nose tackle Tevin Hood who led the Wildcats with 10 tackles. “And Arizona State just ended up with the last (momentum) shift.”
The Wildcats outgained the Sun Devils by 62 yards but Scott struggled all game long, going 19-for-39 for 230 yards. The fifth-year senior had three touchdowns on senior night, but he also threw three interceptions and had a late fumble as well.
“Matt Scott is a great quarterback man,” said running back Daniel Jenkins who added 78 yards on the ground. “I’d tell him not to hang his head at all. You win some, you lose some but at the end of the day he’s a hell of a quarterback.”
Arizona State scored 28 points off of Scott’s four turnovers, and another off of a blocked punt in the middle of the fourth quarter, but the final takeaway was the back-breaker. With Arizona already down a score, corner Robert Nelson picked off a pass and returned it 66 yards to the UA two-yard-line.
Backup quarterback Michael Eubank punched it in from a yard out to give the Sun Devils a 41-27 advantage with just 2:51 remaining in the game. The Wildcats did answer with a quick drive capped off by a David Richards 17-yard reception but it was too little, too late.
“Anytime there’s a turnover either way it’s a huge momentum swing,” head coach Rich Rodriguez said. “And a couple big plays (created) momentum swings. We have been pretty good taking care of the ball (all year), been good on special teams but the turnovers hurt us.
“But there’s not one play that beat us, they’re several plays. And there were times we were just hanging on, there were times we were hanging on all year.”
After Arizona failed to recover a desperation onside kick, the Sun Devils were able to kneel down the ball and take the Territorial Cup away from Arizona Stadium and a season-high 51,901 fans.
With the victory by Arizona State (7-5, 5-4), the road team has won the last four Duel in the Deserts, but this time the winning team didn’t need the final play to secure the victory.
“We put our all into this and this was an emotional game and it definitely hurt,” Jenkins said. “But we’ll bounce back.”
Lost in all was the day Carey had. The true sophomore still surpassed 150 yards for the third straight game despite missing a good chunk of the third quarter to injury.
It didn’t take long for him to cement his name in the Arizona record-books, either. After the two in-state rivals traded off punts to open the game, Carey gained nine yards on his fourth carry of the game, breaking the Trung Canidate’s 12-year-old single-season rushing record. The true sophomore was the nation’s leading rusher coming into the game and finished the regular season with with 1,757 yards, 155 more than Canidate’s previous record of 1,602.
“He was banged up before the game started,” Rodriguez said. “He was banged up last week, he got banged up again and wasn’t able to go as much. But I though (Jenkins) did a nice job when he went in there and (Carey’s) a heck of a football player.”
Arizona State’s Taylor Kelly won the battle of the quarterbacks, going 16-for-29 for 191 yards and added 42 yards on the ground. While Scott was able to make plays at time, including a 40-yard touchdown pass to the game’s leading receiver Garic Wharton, he never looked sharp.
Scott threw back-to-back interceptions in the first half and had at least two more potential picks fall harmlessly to the grass.
“There were some passes that we didn’t execute today that we normally would,” Rodriguez said, “but you have to give them credit too, they did a good job covering us and getting pressure at times.
“I told (Scott) in the locker room that I love him, he’s had a great senior year and I’m proud of the way he’s played every time he’s got out there.”