Wide right: Arizona loses heartbreaker to rival ASU 41-40

'Cats blow 19-point lead

Madeleine Viceconte | The Daily Wildcat

Running back JJ Taylor (21) fumbles the ball and turns the ball over to ASU during the game on Saturday, Nov. 14 at Arizona Stadium. ASU took home the territorial cup with a final score of 41-40. 

Pregame scuffles. Shoving matches. Police presence separating both teams during warm-ups. 

If you had any questions whether the Territorial Cup was a heated rivalry, your doubts were put to bed before the opening kickoff.

Once kickoff did happen, the pregame fireworks carried over onto the playing field as ASU fought back and overcame a 19-point fourth quarter deficit to beat Arizona 41-40 in front of a frenzied and anxious crowd of just under 52,000 at Arizona Stadium. 

The day that had been a party for Arizona ended in heartbreak once dusk set over the stadium, as UA kicker Josh Pollack missed a 45-yard field goal with 11 seconds left in the game. His kick sailed right when he had been a perfect 4-4 earlier in the day.

ASU's win keeps Arizona out of a bowl game as its season ends with a disappointing 5-7 record.

The game started by players almost jumping each other and Arizona jumping out to an early lead. The Wildcats held leads of 19-7, 27-14, 33-21 and 40-21 in the game only to let it slip away in the final minutes.

An ASU player pretends to drink out of the territorial cup after beating Arizona 41-40 on Saturday, Nov. 14 at Arizona Stadium.

Arizona's scoring ended on a jump pass, as quarterback Khalil Tate’s unorthodox throw to Tony Ellison in the back of the end zone late in the third quarter put the Wildcats up 40-21. It looked at that point as though the Sun Devils would be KO'd by the 'Cats.

Not only did the Sun Devils get up off the mat, they found their second wind and fought their way back into the game. Tate’s interception on third-down in his own territory late in the fourth quarter left the Sun Devils a chance to tie the game as they took over on the Arizona 22-yard line.

The extra chance was foiled by an Arizona defensive stand, forcing ASU to a field goal.

Luckily for Arizona State, that wasn’t its last chance. Arizona’s Tate and J.J. Taylor fumbled a handoff, bouncing right into the arms of a Sun Devil defensive lineman. The following play, Arizona State’s Eno Benjamin put the Sun Devils on his back and ran in the go-ahead score to make it 41-40 with just over three minutes to play.

When asked if he and his staff took their foot off the gas, Arizona head coach Kevin Sumlin was quick to dismiss those claims.

“The biggest issues for me as the two turnovers,” Sumlin said. “The two turnovers on our side of the 50 [yard line] cost us more than anything from a strategy standpoint.”

Running back JJ Taylor (21) leaps over an ASU player to avoid getting tackled during the game on Saturday, Nov. 24 at Arizona Stadium. The cats lost the territorial cup game 41-40. 

Like all great fights, it’s not over until that last bell is rung. Arizona took over with just over three minutes to get into field goal range. Tate and Arizona marched down the field as the play clock dwindled, making their way into Arizona State territory with just over a minute to play, but the Wildcats comeback attempt fell just short. 

The Wildcats chose to run the ball to help kill the clock in order to secure a last second field goal attempt, making the attempt longer than Sumlin would have likely hoped for.

The attempt to kill the clock instead of gaining an extra 10 yards proved costly, as Arizona kicker Pollack pushed his fifth kick wide right, cementing the ASU comeback victory.

Tate was visibly frustrated after the heartbreaking loss and almost at a loss for words to describe the action that just transpired.

“Things just didn’t go our way,” said Tate. “A lot of bad luck. That’s pretty much it.”

When asked if he was going to be a part of the Arizona program next season, Tate quickly responded, “next question”, immediately sparking an additional offseason question for first-year Sumlin to handle. 

Sumlin was dismissive when asked about Tate's reaction, stating that he will go through the NFL Draft process with every junior to see how and where they are evaluated.

The loss not only extends ASU's hold on the Territorial Cup for another year, but it also prevents Arizona from being bowl eligible in Sumlin’s first year at the helm. The Wildcats finish the season 5-7 and with plenty of questions when many thought this year would provide the answers.

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