Ask any fan of Arizona State football and they will tell you that 7-5 looks and sounds a lot better than 6-6. Coming into the Duel in the Desert, the Sun Devils had not beaten a team with a winning record, and they lacked a signature victory.
Some began to question if this team was similar to last year’s squad that started 6-2 before losing their final five games. That all changed with ASU’s 41-34 victory over the Arizona Wildcats on Friday night.
“We just had to continue to fight,” defensive tackle Will Sutton said after the victory. “We said that we were not going to let what happened last year affect what happens this year, so we came out and just battled.”
While the Sun Devils were in the midst of their four-game skid, supporters began flashing back to the 2011 campaign. The Sun Devils were making mental mistakes that were not seen early in the season and they were having trouble in close games. Was this team the same as the teams of 2010 and 2011? The Sun Devils answered that question in the fourth quarter, when they outscored the Wildcats 24-7.
“We lost a few games in a row and people started to lose faith,” ASU linebacker Brandon Magee said. The senior from Corona, California, has been the leader of this team on and off the field. He finished the game with 17 tackles, putting him over 100 for the season.
“We won the last game (against Washington State), we won this one in Tucson, and I’m sure they (fans) are seeing some change going on. They are seeing how hard we play, people kept battling, they kept making plays,” Magee said.
“I thought tonight was just an unbelievable example of their character and their resolve,” head coach Todd Graham said about his team following the win. “I’m usually the guy giving the motivational talks, at the beginning of the fourth quarter, Brandon (Magee) and Cameron (Marshall) stepped in. I didn’t say anything, they said ‘We are going to win.’”
The victory secures ASU with its first winning season since 2007, when the Devils won 10 games and earned a share of the Pac-10 championship. No current players, not even fifth-year seniors like Magee, were on that team.
“I wasn’t here in 2007, so this is my first winning season period,” Magee said. “You know I’m happy about it.”
The next challenge for the Sun Devils will be to win their bowl game, something Arizona State has not done since 2005.