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ASU's comeback stuns Wildcats: 3 big takeaways from the 92nd Territorial Cup game

Posted at 6:16 PM, Nov 24, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-25 20:49:08-05

The Arizona State Sun Devils mounted the biggest comeback in Territorial Cup history, and the Arizona Wildcats are going to be full of what-ifs for another year.

Down 40-21 in the fourth quarter, the Devils scored 20 unanswered points to stun host UA 41-40 in the 92nd Territorial Cup game and keep the Cup in Tempe. UA kicker Josh Pollack, who made four field goals earlier in the game, missed a field-goal attempt from 45 yards in the final seconds to give ASU the victory.

Eno Benjamin scored three touchdowns for the Sun Devils, including the game-winner with about three minutes to play, to give ASU the improbable win. 

Here are three big takeaways from the stunner in Tucson.

1. Manny goes out a winner

Manny Wilkins has taken a lot of grief -- some of it unfairly -- from Sun Devil fans. But on Saturday, he completed his regular-season career with ASU in thrilling fashion, making sure he will forever be able to say he had a winning record against the Wildcats.

Wilkins didn't have his best game, but he put the Sun Devils on his back in the fourth quarter. For the game, he completed 18 of 31 passes for 265 yards and a touchdown, while running for 57 yards and a score. He becomes the second straight senior QB to beat Arizona, following Mike Bercovici's win in 2015.

Of course, Wilkins isn't done yet: He'll lead the Sun Devils in whatever bowl game they're assigned. We'll learn where ASU is headed next weekend.

2. Wildcats get too conservative

For three quarters, Arizona did just about whatever it wanted against ASU's defense. Then, leading 40-24 in the fourth quarter, the Wildcats took their foot off the gas, trying to run out the clock rather than continue to push the tempo. 

That strategy led to a punt and an interception that resulted in Sun Devil touchdowns. In fact, ASU's only lead of the game came on its final touchdown of the game with three minutes to play.

QB Khalil Tate, running back J.J. Taylor and wide receiver Shawn Poindexter were outstanding for most of the game -- and Tate deserves credit for making some big throws that put UA in field-goal range in the final seconds. But the Wildcats might not have been in that position in the first place if coach Kevin Sumlin and offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone had kept the heat turned up on the Sun Devils.

3. Turnovers tell the story

As usual, turnovers were the difference in this game. Arizona had an opportunity to recover two ASU fumbles in the first half, but were unable to bring either of them in. The Sun Devils didn't have that problem, as Aashari Crosswell intercepted Tate in the fourth quarter, and then Tyler Johnson pounced on a muffed handoff between Tate and Taylor.

The game was turnover-less until the fourth quarter -- and then, everything changed. ASU took advantage; UA did not.