(Tempe, AZ) So this is it, the final game for Arizona and a tune up before their Bowl Game for the Sun Devils.
ASU came in at (6-5) hoping to enhance themselves in the Bowl pecking order and for the Wildcats (4-7), this is their “Bowl Game.”
Unlike in so many previous contests, the only thing at stake here is state pride.
Arzona State’s success this season has been in part the development of freshman quarterback Jayden Daniels into a dual threat. Most would like to think the best is yet to come next season and beyond.
A big win on the road in East Lansing, Michigan in the third game of the year and last week a statement win against #6 Oregon at home.
For Arizona, this is a season to forget as they hit the wall in Week 1 in a a loss to unheralded Hawaii and hasn’t gone much better since then.
Coach firings mid season, low attendance at home and the general feeling of discontent among fans and alumni.
Arizona got the opening kickoff but didn’t gain a first down and punted after three plays and eight yards.
The Sun Devils first possession didn’t start out the way they wanted as Arizona blitzed up the middle on first down and dropped Eno Benjamin for a four yard loss.
Two possessions, two punts to start the 2019 Territorial Cup. Kind of a microcosm of both teams season’s this year.
The game’s first first down came at the 9:52 when Khalil Tate completed an eighteen yard pass. Zona’s drive stalled and so did their scoring opportunity as Lucas Havrisik missed from forty three yards out and ASU came away unscathed.
On the Devils next possession, after an initial first down, they were forced to punt again.
Neither team had any sustained offensive success in the first quarter and with both offenses unable to put up any points.
Daniels to Aiyuk for twenty five yards down to the Arizona twenty one yard line after the Wildcats inexplicably went for it on fourth and two from their own forty yard line.
Christian Zendejas got the Devils on to the board first with a thirty three yard field goal. ASU 3-0.
The second quarter saw much of the same with sparks of offense on both sides but nothing sustained until the Wildcats got on the board with a forty eight yard receptions from Tate to Jamarye Joiner down the middle and into the end zone. Six plays for eighty three yards did the job.
Arizona 7 ASU 3 with 7:04 to go in the first half.
The Arizona defense in this game was far better than they’ve been all season, but that would change dramatically later in the game.
The Devil defense was always concerned with Tate’s running ability was often caught in an “in between” state on the field. Still there was no effective pressure on the quarterback which has been a concern all year for Herm Edwards.
At the 1:50 mark, Jack Jones intercepted a Tate pass at the ASU eleven and returned back to the twenty five, bullet dodged as the Wildcats were driving.
A pass interference call on Arizona gave the Devils one last chance to score and settled for a Zendejas field goal from twenty three yards just before halftime
The Devils took the second half kickoff and Benjamin punched in into the end zone from six yards out culminating a seventy five yard drive. ASU took the lead 13-7 just into the second half.
Devils Jack Jones intercepted a Tate pass on a “go route” that the receiver broke off. Arizona’s defense sacked Daniels and that was the end of that opportunity
With four minutes left in the third quarter and Arizona starting to drive, Tate was again intercepted by Merlin Robertson and ASU had the ball back at midfield.
A pass interference penalty put the ball at the Wildcat yard line and three plays later Benjamin ran through a huge hole to score and put the Devils up 21-7 after a two point conversion.
The third quarter ended with Arizona in the Red Zone at the Devil’s thirteen yard line.
A chip shot field goal by Havrisik was missed from twenty six yards out was wide right and the woes continued for the Wildcats with thirteen minutes left in their season.
At the 7;20 mark kicked a twenty six yard field goal that sealed the deal on this year’s Territorial Cup for ASU. 24-7.
A late touchdown from Tate to Joiner from two yards out made the score respectable 24-14, but ASU was in control of this game at the start of the third quarter on and finished with the same score.
Benjamin finished with 168 years and went over the 1,000 mark in consecutive seasons.
Edwards adjusted his offense to “ground and pound” and the porous Arizona defense reverted back to their old self.
The Wildcats have one of the nation’s worst defenses and the Sun Devils could only manage a ten point victory 24-14. Edwards and company will work to be more efficient in the Red Zone for their upcoming Bowl Game.
Tonight’s attendance was 54, 074 on a chilly night in Tempe.
Representatives from the Sun Bowl and Holiday Bowl were there to take in the action.
A possible Michigan/Iowa vs ASU matchup may be looming in San Diego.
For Arizona, what comes next? In his two seasons at the helm, Kevin Sumlin has gone 5-7 and 4-8 finishing dead last in the PAC-12 South this year with a 2-7 record.
Fans and dwindling attendance down Tucson beg for a solution. Do you stay the course and hope for the best, or do you make a change before more season ticket holders cancel their ticket commitments?
As of as of now, Athletic Director Dave Heeke, will stay the course with Sumlin. There not much of a choice since the school is still on the hook for Rich Rodriguez’s buyout.
Don’t look for much to change down south anytime soon for the Wildcats.
On the other side of the coin, the Sun Devils played well at times against Michigan State and upsetting Oregon last week, but looked lost against Colorado and USC.
At least there’s light at the end of the tunnel for Edwards and the Devils with the gained experience for Daniels in his freshman year and the young offensive line.
ASU has one more game on their schedule and their opponent will be announced on the Bowl Selection Show coming up soon. Stayed tuned.