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5 big takeaways from Arizona State's Territorial Cup win over the Arizona Wildcats

5 big takeaways from Arizona State's Territorial Cup win over the Arizona Wildcats
Posted at 7:16 PM, Nov 25, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-26 07:31:33-05

Another year, another wild Territorial Cup -- and when all was said and done, the Cup returned to Tempe.

ASU erased a 10-point halftime deficit to defeat the rival Arizona Wildcats 42-30 in front of a sold-out Sun Devil Stadium. Here are five big takeaways from ASU's win.

1. Devils come alive in second half

Arizona was unquestionably the better team for the first 30 minutes of the game. But ASU's offense was nearly unstoppable in the second half thanks to the trio of quarterback Manny Wilkins (three touchdown passes), running back Demario Richard (165 rushing yards, two TDs) and wide receiver N'Keal Harry (43 yards, two TDs). The trio helped ASU to a 21-point explosion in the third quarter and gave the Devils a lead they would not relinquish.

2. Questionable decisions cost Arizona Khaili Tate, game

Arizona had a 24-14 lead late in the first half and had a chance to add more points before halftime. But with the ball at midfield, UA coach Rich Rodriguez decided to play it safe and run the clock down to just a couple seconds before having star quarterback Khalil Tate attempt a Hail Mary pass.

The pass fell incomplete, and Tate appeared to injure his shoulder as he was hit on the play. Tate missed most of the second half due to that injury, and backup Brandon Dawkins was ineffective in his place. Rest assured: Rodriguez's decision to take his foot off the gas will be talked about for a long, long time in Tucson.

3. Special teams are big again

Special-teams plays are always important in this rivalry, and the 2017 Territorial Cup game didn't disappoint in that regard.

The Wildcats' punting team was struggling coming in to Saturday's game, and ASU is very good at blocking punts. So, it shouldn't come as a surprise that one of the game's turning points came on a blocked Arizona punt attempt.

Early in the second half, UA punter Josh Pollack bobbled a snap, leading to a block that went out of bounds inside the Wildcat 10-yard line. ASU scored a couple plays later, and the game was instantly turned on its head. 

4. Bad call on punt return?

Despite the injury to Tate, Arizona was within striking distance of ASU in the fourth quarter following a 50-yard touchdown run by Dawkins to trim the lead to 35-30. After the Wildcats defense forced an ASU punt, UA wide receiver Shun Brown returned a punt for a touchdown to give the Cats the lead back.


A block-in-the-back penalty negated Brown's return, and Arizona had to start deep within its own territory. The Wildcats didn't go anywhere and ASU scored on its next possession to put the game away.

Take a look at the play yourself and be the judge. 

5. What now?

So, where do we go from here? Arizona and ASU are both bowl-bound, but will Todd Graham join the Sun Devils on their bowl trip? A report Saturday said Graham expected to be fired soon after Saturday's game, win or lose, even though Graham said he expects to return to ASU next season during his post-game interview.

As for Arizona: Next year's Wildcats look to be a good team after a surprising seven-win season in 2017. Tate, running back J.J. Taylor and a number of outstanding true freshmen on defense will return. Can the Wildcats take that next step next season, and reclaim the Cup when they meet ASU in Tucson next November?