It seems that the two words "Territorial Cup" are becoming synonymous with late game excitement. And for the third straight year, the visitor left victorious as the Arizona Wildcats stole a close one from the Arizona State Sun Devils despite Brock Osweiler's best attempts at engineering an 80-yard drive in the game's final seconds. Arizona senior quarterback Nick Foles was the winner of the Bob Moran trophy for the for the rivalry game's best player after totaling 370 yards and two touchdowns on 35-51 passing. ASU senior wide receiver Gerell Robinson was the home team's MVP as he set a new Territorial Cup record with 11 receptions and 199 yards receiving to go along with one touchdown.
Exactly as most people predicted, this one was a shootout from the opening kickoff. Arizona started hot, electing to receive then driving the ball 80 yards for a one-yard Keola Antolin touchdown. As soon as ASU got the ball back, things looked like they might not go the Devils way as Osweiler's first attempt was nearly picked. And that prediction turned out to be correct with his last pass of the drive being an interception that was returned 41 yards by cornerback Shaquille Richardson.
The Wildcats took only one minute and 54 seconds to capitalize on Osweiler's mistake with Foles connecting with Ka'Deem Carey for an 11-yard touchdown. With the blackout crowd already contemplating how to deal with this excruciating loss, ASU picked an excellent time to have their second longest drive of the season (12 plays). A two-yard Cameron Marshall touchdown cut the deficit in half with the first quarter winding down.
And when the second fifteen minutes began, the Wildcats began imploding. An 11-play Arizona drive resulted in zero points after kicker John Bonano bounced his attempt off the left upright. The Devils then took advantage of his inaccuracy when Osweiler hooked up with Gerell Robinson on 11-yard touchdown reception.
The very next drive, in another case of Territorial Cup déjà vu, Bonano missed a 27-yard gimme after another long Wildcat drive. The Devils took no time striking yet again with Osweiler found Aaron Pflugrad deep on a 58-yard reception that lead to another Marshall two-yard touchdown run giving the Devils their first lead of the game (21-14).
After each team gave their punters their first action of the game on back-to-back drives, Arizona was assisted by a Davon Coleman roughing the passer call that was added to the end of a 17-yard Juron Criner catch. That series of events setup Bonano's first made field goal when he drained a 43-yarder, allowing the Wildcats to head into the locker room down only four even after Bonano's best Alex Zendejas impression.
Surprisingly enough, the third quarter was almost the exact opposite of the offensive showcase that preceded it. Alex Garoutte's 22-yard chip-shot field goal was the only points scored in the period with punters Josh Hubner and Kyle Dugandzic putting on a punting clinic.
The final act would be one of the most memorable in the 84-game history of this heated rivalry. It started out slow with another short Garoutte field goal from 27 yards. But it turns out that would be the last points the Devils would put up on the scoreboard.
The Wildcats promptly took the ball 94 yards in a quick 2:08 on a drive that was marred by the team in black whiffing on tackles. In fact, on the 33-yard receiving touchdown by Gino Crump, at least four Sun Devil defenders missed on ample opportunities to bring down the speedy 6'2" senior.
Following Arizona State's failed attempt to convert on fourth down on their next drive, the Wildcats took over the ball in a favorable field position on their own 39. Freshman running back Ka'Deem Carey then proceeded to bust off a few nice runs before one of the games most potentially disastrous moments. After another Carey run, Arizona quarterback Nick Foles remained lying on the field lifeless. After a brief session with the trainers, he was helped off, ushering the inexperienced Bryson Bernie on the field. Bernie then proceeded to carve his name in this rivalry's long history, completing his only pass attempt of the night to Criner for a 23 yard touchdown to give Arizona 31-27 lead.
With 5:11 remaining, Osweiler on the offense had plenty of time to repeat last year's heroics and complete another prolific drive. Instead, Osweiler's pass was defelected and picked by cornerback Jourdon Grandon.
The Wildcats managed to run the clock down to 1:13 before punting the ball for a touchback. Of course, it wasn't over yet though. With no timeouts remaining and 80 yards to go, Osweiler and the receivers had the sold out stadium believing completing pass after pass, moving the ball all the way down field, a mere 15 yards away from the endzone. With nine seconds left, Osweiler attempted another risky pass to senior Mike Willie that was fortunately ricocheted out of bounds. Then, on the final play of the game, Osweiler elected to go right back to Willie. Despite Willie's best diving efforts, the ball was short, bouncing right of his outstretched hands.
The Wildcat sideline instantly stormed the field as the dejected Devils walked off, letting another very beatable opponent humiliate them yet again.
Sadly enough, Arizona State still has a chance at representing the South in inaugural Pac-12 Championship Game despite losing four of their past five games. If a USC team that's sure to be motivated defeats UCLA and Utah can avoid an upset against Colorado then a ASU victory over Cal would put the Devils in a three-way tie with UCLA and Utah. And yes folks, Arizona State would have the tiebreaker.
But the one wild card in that situation is a ASU win, something fans of the maroon and gold haven't seen in what feels like quite a long time.