TUCSON, AZ - Marion Grice ran for 156 yards and three touchdowns, and Arizona State added another chapter to what's become a wild rivalry by scoring 24 points in the fourth quarter to beat Arizona 41-34 on Friday night.
Trailing 27-17 after Arizona scored 18 points in the third quarter, the Sun Devils (7-5, 5-4 Pac-12) fought back, turning two turnovers and a blocked punt into three touchdowns.
Kevin Ayers had a blocked punt to set up Cameron Marshall for an 8-yard touchdown that gave Arizona State the lead, and Robert Nelson returned an interception 66 yards before Michael Eubank's 1-yard touchdown made it 41-27.
Matt Scott found David Richards for a 17-yard touchdown in the final 2 minutes to cut Arizona State's lead to 41-34, but the Wildcats couldn't come up with the onside kick.
Ka'Deem Carey ran for 172 yards and a touchdown for the Wildcats (7-5, 4-5). Scott threw for 230 yards and three touchdowns but had four turnovers, including an interception and a fumble in the fourth quarter.
Arizona State's comeback helped coach Todd Graham land the first blow on Arizona's Rich Rodriguez in the 85-game series' first game between new coaches since Arizona's John Mackovic beat ASU's Dirk Koetter in 2001.
A heated rivalry to begin with, the Territorial Cup took on added meaning this season with new coaches trying to get a head start on each other.
After an unsuccessful stint at Michigan, Rodriguez brought gas-it-all-the-time offense to the desert, hoping to turn around a program that had fallen off hard the previous couple of seasons.
Even without much depth on his roster, Rodriguez's debut has been a success: Seven wins, two over Top 25 teams, and bowl eligibility in his first season.
Just 90 minutes up Interstate 10 in Tempe, Graham put his mark on the Sun Devils with his no-nonsense approach and high-octane offense. Arizona State got off to a great start, winning five of its first six games, then rallied from a four-game losing streak to become bowl eligible by beating Washington State last weekend.
For all they accomplished, Friday night's game was the biggest of the season. Bragging rights, an advantage in recruiting, a boost for fans and alumni -- plenty was riding on this game.
It took a while to get going.
The only player on either team to get much going early, Carey passed Trung Canidate's single-season school record of 1,602 yards rushing, set in 1999, on Arizona's second drive, then launched himself over Arizona State safety Alden Darby for a 1-yard touchdown run to cap it.
Bogged down early, Arizona State got going by picking off two of Scott's passes. Grice followed the first with a nifty 52-yard touchdown run, then scored from 3 yards out to help the Sun Devils to a 14-9 halftime lead.
Outplayed most of the first half, the Wildcats dominated the third quarter.
Scott used a pump fake to free up Austin Hill for a 29-yard touchdown pass on Arizona's opening drive of the third quarter. Then, Garic Wharton made a tough catch with Keelan Johnson flying in front of him for a 40-yard touchdown. Kicker John Bonano took a direct snap on a fake PAT and raced around the right end for a two-point conversion.
A fumble by Arizona State -- the snap hit the motion man -- set up a 23-yard field goal by Bonano that put Arizona up 10.
The Sun Devils still wouldn't go away. Jon Mora kicked a 39-yard field goal after Rashad Ross had two potential touchdown passes go through his hands. Then Johnson came up big again, stripping Scott for a fumble. Grice followed with his third touchdown, from 4 yards out, to tie the game at 27.
"It's the most important game of the year," ASU Head Coach Todd Graham declared at a Monday press conference.
How important? Well, according to legendary former ASU coach Frank Kush, it's impossible to have a successful campaign without winning the annual showdown.
"You can be 11-0 and if you don't win this game you had an unsuccessful season," Graham says Coach Kush has reminded him more than once.
"This is what college football is all about – rivalry games. None that have more passion than this one," Graham continued. "I know, hands down, to our fan base, Sun Devil Nation, this is the most important game. It means the most to them."