TUCSON — In the 90th meeting between Arizona State and Arizona the Territorial Cup is headed back to Tucson after the Wildcats dismantled the Sun Devils 56-35 Friday night in the ‘Duel in the Desert.’ UofA gets their first conference win and finishes the season 3-9, 1-8. ASU drops to 5-7, 2-7.
Here are five things we learned at Arizona Stadium.
1. A Fitting Finish…When two teams enter their regular season finale on a combined 14-game losing streak the smile is always a little widen for the winner, especially in a rivalry game. The 2016 T-Cup had a little bit of everything, including a defensive touchdown for the fourth consecutive year. Stunning to think Arizona didn’t attempt a single pass in the second half, yet wasn’t challenged by a defense who bottomed out against the bottom of the Pac-12 on their own version of ‘Black Friday.’ ASU allowed an astonishing 18 50-plus yard scoring plays this season. Arizona had seven plays of 30 or more yards, six of those went for at least 52.
2. Setting Sun (Devils)…ASU was out-muscled, out-hustled, out-willed, out-played, out-tackled and out-coached in every way. The listless Devils fell behind 28-7 and never recovered. There was no sense of urgency, especially defensively as the ‘Cats ran wild. After racing out to a 5-1 start, they were outscored 280-162 in their six-game losing streak which ties a school record. Todd Graham’s swagger, much like his players, is gone. The shine of his back-to-back double-digit win seasons (2013, 2014), now a distant memory. Vice President for University Athletics Ray Anderson recently said Graham will be back next year but after what he witnessed Friday in Tucson you have to wonder if he may have a change of heart. Anderson didn’t hire Graham. How much patience will he show after back-to-back losing seasons remains to be seen.
3. Getting A Leg Up…A year ago at Sun Devil Stadium then-redshirt freshman Brandon Dawkins provided a second-half spark throwing for 305 and rushing for 78 yards with three total touchdowns in the 52-37 loss. Friday he flipped the script running for 183 and passing for 77 more, matching his touchdown total in the 2015 T-Cup. His “effort” plays were evident against ASU, either dragging defenders for extra yards or occasionally helping out with blocks downfield. His throwing mechanics aren’t as polished as Anu Solomon but he has the size and speed to make impact plays with his feet. His 761 rushing yards led the ‘Cats this season.
4. Rush to Judgement…It’s been no secret ASU’s defense has struggled all season but Graham’s unit had been stingy against the run ranking 28th in the nation entering this weekend. They came in averaging just 131.5 per game. The ‘Cats had over 180 midway through the second quarter. Dawkins set the tempo with a pair of touchdowns, including a 71-yarder as he raced nearly untouched on the opening possession. Arizona’s banged up offense managed close to 210 yards on the ground this year, good for 34th in the country. Friday night they finished with 511 yards at a 10.2 per-carry clip. Their 28 points at the half were as many as they had in any FULL GAME dating back to their 35-28 overtime loss to Washington back on September 25th.
5. Foul Play…The ugly trend continued for the Devils. Graham has always pride himself on his teams playing smart, disciplined football. ASU entered the T-Cup tied for the second-most penalized team in the conference (51.2 yards per game). They had six in the first half for 54 yards, finishing with eight for 61. They also turned the ball over twice and were just 1-6 on fourth-down conversions. Further complicating matters sophomore defensive back Armand Perry was ejected in the second quarter for throwing a punch. All the “little things” seem to be exposed when a team sputters as bad as ASU has the final two months of the season. Outside of a late-game rally at home against Washington State, ASU wasn’t competitive in any of their one-sided losses in the current six-game skid.