(Photo: ASU Athletics)
The biggest Territorial Cup matchup of all time turned into one of the biggest stinkers in the rivalry’s history, as Arizona State beat Arizona 58-21 on Saturday night.
The Sun Devils will host the Pac-12 Championship game next Saturday, when defending Rose Bowl champion Stanford comes to town.
It was over when: Taylor Kelly found a wide-open Darwin Rogers for a 38-yard touchdown with 2:38 left in the first quarter. Arizona collapsed on the read-option and nobody went with Rogers, and the score put ASU on top 13-0.
Before that score, Arizona had twice stopped the Sun Devils in the red zone, forcing field goals. But the Rogers touchdown opened the floodgates and Arizona State raced out to a 30-7 halftime lead.
Player of the Game: With Marion Grice out with an ankle injury, everyone wondered if D.J. Foster could handle the full-time load at running back. Nobody will ever ask that question again. Foster ran for 124 yards on 23 carries with two touchdowns. He was quick, fast and strong. He made defenders miss and ran them over. Everything about D.J. Foster said ‘feature back’ in this one.
Biggest Concern: The start of the third quarter left a lot to be desired. A week after letting UCLA back in the game, Arizona State once again came out flat, allowing a long scoring drive and falling flat on offense before Damarious Randall’s 64-yard pick-six. Up until that point, momentum was completely on Arizona’s side. If ASU races out to a lead in the Pac-12 Championship game, it can’t afford to let up, or Stanford will make them pay.
Unsung Hero: De’Marieya Nelson proved he is the most versatile player in the Pac-12 on Saturday night. No offense to Myles Jack, but Nelson did a little bit of everything. Nelson plowed into the end zone twice as a power back, caught passes as a tight end, sprung Foster for a touchdown with a huge block and had two thundering hits on kick returns, one of which led to a fumble that he recovered. Give a game ball to Nelson, no question.
Stat of the Game: 4. The Sun Devils forced four turnovers, including Randall’s pick-six, Nelson’s fumble recovery and an interception each by seniors Alden Darby and Osahon Irabor. Coming into the game, Arizona quarterback B.J. Denker had thrown just four interceptions all year. The Sun Devils also scored on an interception for the fifth time this year, the third consecutive game and the eighth time since Todd Graham took over as head coach in Tempe.
What’s Next: The games keep getting bigger for Arizona State. The Sun Devils will host Stanford in the Pac-12 Championship game on Saturday, December 7th.
You can reach Jason Galvin on Twitter @Jason_Galvin or by email firstname.lastname@example.org