Devils Edge Cats, Await Bowl Fate

Rivalry games aren't supposed to be pretty and the one played at Sun Devil Stadium was true to form. Yet following ASU's 20-17 win over Arizona, no one bleeding maroon and gold cares one bit. The victory gave the Sun Devils, the 2007 Pac-10 co-champions, their highest win total since 1996. Furthermore it caused its archrival to be shut out of the post-season. Ugly win, but ever satisfying too.

A fumble by Rudy Burgess on Arizona State's (10-2, 7-2 Pac-10) first possession, was precursor for the offensive struggles the hosts would go through the entire night. Arizona (5-7, 4-5) drew first blood on a short one yard touchdown pass from Willie Tuitama to Rob Gronkowski. ASU tied the score at 7 apiece when Rudy Carpenter found Tyrice Thompson from three yards out with a creative shovel pass.

A Tuitama pass was intercepted by Troy Nolan in the end zone. In the ensuing possession, an acrobatic catch by Chris McGaha put the maroon and gold on the Cats' one-yard line. Alas, ASU wasn't able to punch it in and settled for a chip shot 19-yard field goal by Thomas Weber which ultimately sent both teams to the locker room with a 10-7 ASU edge.

On the first play from scrimmage from Arizona in the second stanza, Rodney Cox, who started at safety for the injured Josh Barrett, intercepted a Tuitama pass and returned it to the visitors' 40-yard line. ASU drove the ball all the way to Arizona's 3-yard line, but once again had to settle for a field goal. It was the 22nd field goal of Weber's campaign, tying him with UCLA's Kai Forbath for the Pac-10 freshman record.

The Sun Devil defense continued to have another stellar second half performance, which was highlighted by one of the key plays of the game – blocking an Arizona field goal courtesy of defensive tackle Michael Marquardt. The senior proceeded to recover a Tuitama fumble on the Wildcats' next possession, but ASU didn't take advantage of that miscue, keeping matters frighteningly close.

A 31-yard field goal by Jason Bondzio brought Arizona closer, trailing just 13-10, with 8:47 remaining in the contest. ASU answered right back, when a Carpenter pass to Mike Jones from 20-yards out for a touchdown put his team ahead 20-10, with just under four and half minutes left in the game. In what turned out to be a critical mistake, Arizona tried to covert a 4th and goal from ASU's 2-yard line, instead of attempting a field goal. The pass was incomplete and allowed ASU to shave off another minute off the game clock.

With 26 seconds left in the game. Tuitama found Nicholas Grigsby for a four-yard score. Arizona's onside kickoff fell into ASU's hands, ending any possibility the Cats had to equal the score and have a chance at a win and an elusive bowl bid.

Carpenter completed 20-37 passes for 247 yards and two touchdowns. ASU's offense line did a great job protecting the signal caller, giving up just two sacks. Dimitri Nance rushed for 64 yards on 22 carries, while McGaha caught the ball six times for 83 yards. Justin Tryon, Mike Nixon, and Travis Goethel each had seven tackles to pace ASU. Dexter Davis notched two sacks.

ASU held onto the pigskin 34:21 minutes, and had 344 yards of offense to Arizona's 316. The Cats were sacked four times and tallied just 44 yards of rushing.

On Sunday evening ASU will learn what bowl game they'll be invited to. Loses by Missouri and West Virginia, have sent the BCS into chaos. Consequently, the Sun Devils may be a victim of this fallout, and be denied a chance to stay home and play in the prestigious Fiesta Bowl. Worst case scenario, the maroon and gold will venture to San Diego to play in the Holiday Bowl, likely against Texas.

True, the apparent growing chance that ASU will be shut out of a BCS bowl, does put somewhat of a damper on an emotional victory over the Wildcats. However, if that disappointing scenario should materialize, players and fans alike should make the most out the opportunity to play in one of the better non-BCS bowls, in one of the top tourist destinations in the country, against a high-profile opponent.

Oh, and if you're still bummed about going to a bowl of seemingly low caliber, put yourself in you're not so friendly neighbor down south. He hasn't seen his team play in a bowl, prestigious or insignificant since 1998. And the Sun Devils were responsible for the last two years of that dubious streak…

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