Devils Edge Cats in Dramatic Fashion

Answer the Scratch is the Sun Devils' mission statement, and after trailing 17-5 at halftime they needed to live up to it to come away victorious. A maroon and gold defense who has taken its fair share of lumps this season held the Wildcats to three points, while ASU's special teams completed the comeback. The 23-20 victory, thanks to late field goal, will have ASU's extended as they will play in the local Insight Bowl.

Arizona State (6-5, 4-4) had a strong opening drive, and marched down to Arizona's (3-8, 2-6) 15-yard line. However, the Sun Devils had to settle for a Jesse Ainsworth 32-yard field goal at the 4:02 mark of the first quarter. The Wildcats promptly matched the score on their first drive, when Nick Folk punched in a 37-yard attempt. The next possession for Mike Stoop's team wasn't as successful, as long snapper Sy Tomerlin flings the ball over Folk's head and into the end zone. Folk kicked the ball out for a safety.

The Devils weren't able to capitalize on what appeared to be a momentum shifted play, and were shut out the rest of the half. It was actually the Cats who shook off that mishap, when Willie Tuitama found Travis Bell for a seven-yard score. Minutes later Arizona's Mike Bell rushed 36 yards in the ensuing drive, and capped it off with a one-yard scamper to put the score at 17-5 with 5:55 remaining in the half.

ASU's first drive in the second half saw the home team turn the ball on downs, when Rudy Carpenter failed to convert a 4th and 1 with his feet. Arizona took advantage of that situation, and tacked on 47 yarder from Folk. This could have been a back breaker for the maroon and gold, but adversity wasn't going to get the best of Dirk Koetter's squad on Friday. The Devils marched 80 yards down the field, and ended with a seven-yard scoring run by Rudy Burgess (who had 32 yards of total offense on the drive), to bring the maroon and gold within eight points, 20-12, with 5:48 remaining in the third quarter.

Disaster stroked hard for the visitors in the beginning of the fourth quarter. Mike Bell was injured and never returned, as was Tuitama who was slammed to the ground as he threw an interception to defensive lineman DeWayne Hollyfield who dropped into coverage. Terry Richardson, who received the Ben Goo trophy for being the game's MVP, has dazzled all season with his punt returns, and he saved the best for the last regular season game. He dashed for 71 yards and a touchdown, and following a successful two-point conversion from Carpenter to Zach Miller, the score was tied up at 20 at the 7:52 mark of the fourth quarter.

Arizona was forced to punt, and with 4:49 left in the game a long and methodical drive down the filed, naturally resulting in a score, was what was needed for ASU to beat its archrival. 13 plays and 77 yards later mission accomplished as Jesse Ainsworth converts a chip shot from 20 yards out with nine seconds left in the game, to bring the Territorial Cup back to Tempe.

Carpenter, who was suffering from a severe sore throat, was 18-37 for 246 yards. Burgess paced the ASU ball carriers with 83 yards on 16 carries, and just like Derek Hagan hauled in 47 yards (Burgess on five catches, Hagan on four). Zach Catanese led the team once again with 11 tackles. Tuitama was 15-21 for 149 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Mike Bell ran 117 yards on 27 carries, while Steptoe had 86 yards on six catches.

No one had envisioned a 6-5 season record back in August. Nevertheless, with all that has transpired this year, the Sun Devils will gladly take that record, a bowl berth, and more importantly the extra weeks of practice. State bragging rights have shifted sides. An outstanding senior class ended their playing time at Sun Devil stadium on a high and emotional note. The maroon and gold faithful will come in droves to downtown Phoenix for a post-season contest on December 27th. Home for the holidays never sounded better.

Sparky's SundriesKeegan Herring rushed for only 20 yards, but that was enough to set the mark for a rushing total by an ASU first-year player at 784 yards…how nice was it to see Matt Miller, who's 4th down drop in last year's rivalry game was mentioned ad nauseam, have a key 26-yard catch on ASU's game-wining drive…aside from the injured Grayling Love and Nick Clapp, all 17 seniors who suited up for the game did participate…linebacker Dale Robinson played on the defensive line for several snaps, and his ten tackles negated his three offside penalties…he may been growing up idolizing Arizona's former QB Keith Smith, but Carpenter did a very good Jake Plummer impression when he scrambled around for 30 yards in all four directions, dodging would-be tacklers, and completing a pass…the Sun Devil stories played on the video screen were nicely done. The Sun Devil fan who works as a Tucson Police officer was obviously well suited for today's game and a crowd favorite.

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