Jeff Vinton

Preview: Arizona Wildcats 7-4 (4-4 Pac-12)

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Key Wins: Utah 4-7 (1-6 Pac-12), Oregon 9-2 (6-2 Pac-12)

Key Losses: Washington 7-4 (4-4 Pac-12), USC 9-3 (6-2 Pac-12), UCLA 8-3 (5-3 Pac-12), Washington State 6-5 (4-4 Pac-12)

NFL Draft Prospects: RB Ka’Deem Carey, OLB Marquis Flowers, CB Shaquille Richardson, FB Terrence Miller, ILB Jake Fisher, DT Tevin Hood

Well, Sun Devils here we are. It is finally Territorial Cup week. And it couldn’t look better for Arizona State right now.

Last week, the No. 17 Sun Devils took their toughest road test of the season, heading to Pasadena, Calif., to play the No. 14 UCLA Bruins at the Rose Bowl for the Pac-12 South division title. And the game started off perfectly.

The Devils received the kickoff and used a seven-play drive that lasted 2:43 to take a 7-0 lead on a Taylor Kelly three-yard touchdown run. UCLA quickly tied it up, as on the Bruins’ first play from scrimmage, quarterback Brett Hundley threw a 42-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Devin Lucien, who had gotten behind the ASU defense. UCLA would take a 10-7 lead late in the first quarter after kicker Kaimi Fairbairn hit a 48-yard field goal. ASU responded by going down the field in eight-plays, which took 2:25, and having D.J. Foster run in for a touchdown from three yards out, and taking a 14-10 lead.

The second quarter started off with a bang for the Sun Devils, as on the first play of the second quarter, Devil linebacker Carl Bradford intercepted Hundley and took it in for a touchdown to give ASU a 21-10 lead. Fairbairn would miss a field goal on the next drive, and that would not be only time that would happen. The teams then traded punts, and then ASU used 13 plays and 5:40 0f game time to drive down the field and score a touchdown, this time, having backup quarterback Michael Eubank sneak in for the TD and the 28-10 Sun Devil advantage. Fairbairn hit a 23-yarder to make it 28-13 on the next drive, which left 47 seconds on the clock. ASU was determined to score before the half, and score they did, as Taylor Kelly led the offense on one of ASU’s quickest scoring drives of the season, which ended on a 19-yard TD pass from Kelly to wide receive Jaelen Strong with 5 seconds left. That score gave the Sun Devils a 35-13 lead at the half.

Those scores that ASU had gotten used to in the first half would become rare after halftime, and to start the half, UCLA received the kick, and took it down the field using a 10-play, 3:20 drive that was capped by a Myles Jack three-yard rushing touchdown, to make the score 35-20. ASU would fumble on their next drive, giving the ball, and the dreaded “m” word, momentum, to the Bruins at ASU’s 15-yard-line. 1:35 later, Paul Perkins would score on a one-yard rush to make the score 35-27. ASU would drain the clock on the next drive, as they used 6:50, by way of 14 plays, that led to a 28-yard Zane Gonzalez field goal to make the score 38-27.

The 3rd quarter ended during the Bruins next drive, a drive that would end with a 27-yard touchdown pass from Hundley to Shaq Evans. The Bruins would go for two, but ASU safety Alden Darby would intercept Hundley on the play to keep the Sun Devils’ advantage at five points, 38-33. Fairbairn would miss another field goal with 4:38 left, and then the Sun Devils would force the Bruins to turn the ball over on downs, after penalties forced the Bruins into a 1st down and 30, which became a 4th and 35. The Sun Devils took a knee to seal the 38-33 victory that won the Pac-12 South, sending ASU to the Pac-12 title game, which they learned would be against one of the teams ASU lost to earlier this season, then-No. 9 (now No. 8) Stanford, who clinched their spot after then-No. 5 Oregon was upset by the Arizona Wildcats. The win over UCLA pushed ASU up to No. 12 in the BCS poll. The Wildcat victory also has given the Sun Devils the opportunity to host the title game, which they will be able to do by beating, you guessed it, the team that gave them the chance, arch-rival Arizona.

The Sun Devils will face-off against the Wildcats for the Territorial Cup on Saturday, Nov. 30, 2013 at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Ariz. The game will kickoff at 7:30 MST and will be broadcast on the Pac-12 Networks.

Arizona started off the season without All-American running back Ka’Deem Carey, who was suspended due to his off the field activities. Luckily for the Wildcats, the game Carey missed was against FCS-school Northern Arizona. The Wildcats rolled to a 35-0 victory, even though starting quarterback B.J. Denker only threw for 87 yards and one touchdown.

The schedule did not get much tougher the next week when the Wildcats took a trip up to Las Vegas to play UNLV. Carey returned, rushed for 171 yards and two touchdowns and the Wildcats dispatched the Rebels 58-13.

UA’s tough slate to open their 2013 season continued back at home the next week, as the Wildcats welcomed UTSA to Tucson. Carey again led the team, this time with 128 yards rushing and two TDs. Denker broke 100 yards through the air for the first time, as he threw for 158 yards and a touchdown.

The Wildcats had a bye, and then began their Pac-12 slate with a game against the Washington Huskies, up north in Seattle, UA’s first real game of the season. Husky quarterback Keith Price threw for 165 yards and a couple of touchdowns and Husky running back Bishop Sankey outrushed Carey, with 161 yards to Carey’s 132, and scored a touchdown to lead UW to a 31-13 victory over UA.

The Wildcats took a trip to Los Angeles the next week to play the USC Trojans who were fresh off a bye after a 62-41 beat down in Tempe that got head coach Lane Kiffin fired. The Trojans played inspired football under interim head coach Ed Orgeron, and sent UA to their second straight loss, 38-31.

The Utah Utes, who had just beaten then-No.5 Stanford at home, came to Tucson the next week. The Wildcats relied heavily on Carey, handing him the ball 39 times, on which he gained 234 yards and scored a touchdown, in route to a 35-24 victory, UA’s first Pac-12 victory of the season.

UA took a trip up to Folsom Field in Boulder, Colo., next to play the Colorado Buffaloes. The Cats again put this game on Carey’s back, giving him the ball 23 times. He gained 119 yards on those carries and scored four times. He was helped out by Denker rushing for 192 yards on 15 carries, but the four touchdowns were key as UA dispatched Colorado 44-20.

UA began November by traveling up to Berkley, Calif., to take on the Cal Golden Bears. The Bears gave the Cats some trouble as freshman quarterback Jared Goff threw for 289 yards and four scores, but UA was able to hang on for a 33-28 victory thanks to Denker, who passed for 261 yards and a touchdown and added 44 yards and three scores on the ground. Carey rushed for 152 yards, but was held scoreless.

A huge test came next for UA, as the No. 19 UCLA Bruins came to Arizona Stadium. The Cats gave the Bruins about all that they could handle, as Carey ran for 149 yards and a score and Denker threw for 186 yards, two TDs, and rushed for 82 yards. But, the UA defense could not contain hybrid freshman linebacker/running back Myles Jack, who ran for 120 yards and a score, or Hundley, who passed for 227 yards and two scores and ran for 56 yards and a score. UCLA won the game 31-26.

The Wildcats figured they would get a week off and an easy win the next week with Washington State coming to town. But that was not to be the case, as quarterback Connor Halliday threw the ball for 319 yards and two scores, and the normally pass-heavy Cougars rushed 27 times as a team for 101 yards and a score in a 24-17 Wazzu victory. The Wildcats kept it close thanks to 132 yards and a touchdown from Carey and 200 yards passing and a score from Denker along with 64 yards on the ground from the UA quarterback.

The Wildcats did not have the most favorable matchup coming off of that loss with the No. 5 Oregon Ducks coming down to Tucson. The Wildcats put the Washington State loss far, far, far behind them and blew the Ducks out of the water. The Wildcat defense held Oregon to 198 yards rushing, and although quarterback Marcus Mariota threw for 308 yards, he also threw his first two interceptions of the season to UA. Carey ran for 206 yards and four touchdowns (on 48 carries) and Denker threw for 178 yards and two scores and ran for 102 yards. All of that added up to a huge win for Arizona, 42-16.

And, now here we are. The No. 12 Arizona State Sun Devils vs. the upset-minded Arizona Wildcats for the Territorial Cup, and for ASU, the right to host the Pac-12 Championship against Stanford.

Now, if it was not already obvious from reading above, there is really one thing that the Sun Devils must do to secure this victory. They must stop Ka’Deem Carey and and make Denker and the Wildcats rely on their passing attack. The Wildcats put their offensive hopes on the back of Carey, who has already been given the ball 290 times this season, on which he has gained 1559 yards, good for second in the country to Boston College’s Andre Williams, and scored 16 times. Carey accounts for over 30% of the Wildcat offense, on his own. If the Sun Devils can slow the Wildcat rush attack, much like they did to Washington’s, then they will take almost 60% of UA’s offense away. Stopping the run is critical this week, and ASU’s defense has done fantastic doing that as of late.

This is an extremely hard game to make a prediction for. It’s the Territorial Cup, and it almost never goes how it is supposed to. Former UA quarterback and current Philadelphia Eagles QB, Nick Foles once said, “You can throw the records out; it’s always going to be a hard fought game. They (ASU) can be 11-0 and we (UA) can be 0-11, and vice versa. It’ll still be a hard-fought game.” Now, the records are quite 11-0 and 0-11, ASU is 9-2 and UA is 7-4, but neither of those will matter once the ball sails off the tee at 7:30 Saturday night. Also, home field has never been much of an advantage in this series. ASU has won in Tucson 19 times and UA has also won in Tempe 19 times. The Sun Devils and Wildcats have met on the gridiron 86 times, so 44% of the games have ended with the visiting team walking away victorious. Lest we forget last season, when ASU won in Tucson, despite trailing by 14 at the beginning of the fourth quarter.

When all is said and done, however, I believe it will be that homefield advantage that will decide this game. And it may not even be the homefield advantage during the game. The last time the Sun Devils took a trip up to Palo Alto, Calif., and played Stanford it ended in a 42-28 Cardinal victory, that was not as close as the score indicates. The Sun Devils will want to make Stanford come down to Tempe for the Pac-12 Championship game. The Sun Devils also have not lost at home this season, and their most impressive performances (Wisconsin, USC, Washington) have all come at Sun Devil Stadium. With all of that factored in, including a sold out SDS, I see the Territorial Cup staying where it belongs, in Tempe.

Prediction: ASU 45, UA 38

About Jeff Vinton

Jeff Vinton is a sophomore journalism and mass communication major at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. He was born and raised in Fort Collins, CO and graduated in 2012 from Fort Collins High School.

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