TEMPE, AZ – One week after their big win over Oregon the week prior, the Arizona State Sun Devils (7-5, 4-5) run away with the 24-14 win over the Arizona Wildcats (4-8, 2-7).
It was a big day for the Sun Devils! On Senior night in front of an energized crowd of 54,074 people in Tempe, AZ, ASU responded with the resounding, 24-14 win to keep the cup in Tempe!
Running back Eno Benjamin was certainly the star of the show, as the junior ran the ball 34 times for 174 yards and two touchdowns to seal the win! Benjamin would certainly carry the load in the second half, totaling 143 yards rushing on 24 carries.
“I understand what this game is about… there’s a lot of guys, young guys, so I was trying to fuel that passion so that they understand what this rivalry mean” Benjamin said.
Chippy as this rivalry has always been, the Wildcats entered this one with a lot of emotions, perhaps the result of a season in which Arizona ended the year on a seven-game losing streak.
Things certainly started a bit heated as Arizona had a skirmish at midfield prior to the kick-off, which seemed to boil over to begin the game.
“These rivalry games take place, and a lot emotions come out” head coach Herm Edwards said. “And you see bad football, you really do, and it takes away from the game.”
Edwards wasn’t wrong, as both squads seemed a bit sloppy and slow to start this one, totaling just 156 yards which resulted in zero points in the first quarter.
Arizona would have a chance to take the lead early, but a missed field goal from Lucas Havrisik kept the Cats scoreless.
The second quarter wouldn’t be all that much better either, however, it was the Devils who were the ones to strike first, forcing the Wildcats to a turnover on downs to end the first quarter which would lead to points to begin the second quarter.
ASU would drive the ball 25 yards on six plays, converting on a 33-yard field goal from Christian Zendejas to make it 3-0 Devils with 13:07 to play in the second quarter.
Just a few series later, Arizona would respond, finding the end zone on a Khalil Tate pass to Jamarye Joiner that went for 48 yards and a score.
Leading 7-3, Arizona would be driving again, but it was ASU that would stand firm, forcing a Tate interception that would lead to another Zendejas field goal as time expired to make it 7-6 Wildcats at the half.
Deferring until the second half like he typically does, Edwards would rely on his running back in the second half to “get a drive going, and we leaned on him [Eno],” Edwards said. “We’re going to the run ball and that was the intention.”
That he did as ASU would begin the half driving 75 yards on 11 plays which led to a Sun Devils touchdown run from Benjamin from six-yards out. Surprisingly, ASU wouldn’t attempt a single pass on that drive!
After back-to-back interceptions by Tate, ASU would find the endzone again! This time on Benjamin’s second touchdown of the game, finding a hole and scoring form one-yard out.
Again, the Sun Devils wouldn’t attempt a single pass on the drive that lasted 2:45, spanning 49 yards on seven plays to make it 21-7 after the two-point conversion run from Jayden Daniels.
The biggest thing for ASU was rhythm and controlling the ball. ASU would end the game with over 34 minutes of possession, but the biggest thing for ASU and the Sun Devils was “making first downs, make them use their timeouts and we can bleed the clock” Edwards said.
Arizona would try and respond as Havrisik and the Wildcats would have a chance to find points again, but the junior kicker missed his second attempt of the day, giving the Devils the ball right back, which led to another ASU field goal, virtually putting this game out of reach for good!
Trailing 24-7, Tate and the Wildcats would find the endzone again, scoring on a two-yard pass to Joiner to make it 24-14, but it was too little too late, as ASU got the ball and ran out the clock to secure the victory.
With the third-straight Territorial Cup win, ASU improves to 7-5 (4-5) and awaits their bowl fate. As for senior corner Kobe Williams, this win meant a lot. “Never lost to them, 3-0,” Williams said. “This game means so much to the fans, I just wanted to come in and be 3-0 for my career, and that’s all I talked about to my teammates.”
As for Edwards, he and his team will have to be patient until their next game. “Now we’ll wait, we’ll find out where we’re going and hopefully be in a position to win another game.”
For Arizona and the Wildcats, the team falls to 4-8 and is bowl less for the second straight year under head coach Kevin Sumlin.