The last seven (since 2012) Territorial Cup matchups between Arizona State and Arizona were wild-west shootouts, each with at least 72 total points scored. The winners of those battles averaged 47-points per game.
That scoring trend came to a screeching halt last Saturday Night on Frank Kush Field. With the nation watching along with 54,074 inside Sun Devil Stadium, Arizona State rallied from a first-half deficit to defeat the Wildcats, 24-14. Bear Done.
In a classless move by Kevin Sumlin’s UTucson team during warm-ups, the Wildcats huddled and used their cleats to scuff up a large Sparky-head logo painted at the center of Frank Kush Field. This year’s Cup, the 93rd in the series, had no postseason implications for the kitty. Now sitting at 9-15 in two seasons, Sumlin’s seat is somewhat hot down south.
The game was highlighted by big plays from the Sun Devil defense. Junior Jack Jones (J21) had two-interceptions, and Sophomore linebacker Merlin Robertson picked-off another. Both players had six tackles in a stout complete-team defensive performance.
In space, Junior Defensive Back Evan Fields had 10-tackles, 5-solo. All six of Freshman Safety Cam Phillips’ knockdowns were solo including one for a loss. Danny Gonzalez’s kids were firing to the ball.
Arizona Freshman Wide Receiver Jamarye Joiner had 7-catches for 140-yards and two-touchdowns.
View this post on Instagram
I'm really going to miss watching @sundevilfb beat Khalil Tate. #asu #asufootball #arizonastate #arizonastateuniversity #arizonastatefootball #collegefootball #espn #forksup #fearthefork #forkemdevils #hAte #sparky #sundevils #sundevilfootball #sundevilnation #rivalry #keepthecup #terriorialcup #forkthecats #beardone #beardown #beardownforwhat #beatarizona #beatcats #gobacktotucson #nopityforthekitty #uofa
Coach Kevin Sumlin let Khalil Tate take all of the snaps in his last game as a Wildcat. Tate ran the ball 11-times for 78-yards. He was 22-38 for 228-yards, 2-touchdowns and, unfortunately for Arizona, those 3-interceptions. Both the Wildcats and Sun Devils were plagued by miscues early.
Arizona State relied heavily on special teams, defense, and field position in the first half. The Sun Devils failed to find the end zone until midway through the third quarter. For the game, Michael Turk had 5-punts for 246 with a 56-yard long.
In the first two quarters, the Wildcats held the upper hand in nearly every statistical category. Not only did Arizona compile more total yards (220) than Arizona State (146), but the Sun Devils struggled once again to convert on 3rd-down, going 1 of 7. ASU was as cold as Pinetop when the scoreboard read 7-6 at Halftime.
After being held to two field goals from sophomore Cristian Zendejas in the first half, the Sun Devils would come from behind to score 18-points by dominating the line of scrimmage in the second.
“We were going to take all the guesswork out of it and play big-boy football,” said Arizona State Offensive Coordinator Rob Likens.
Eno Benjamin again delivered the goods on Saturday night with 34-carries for 168-yards and 2-touchdowns. Eno totaled 65-carries for 282-yards in consecutive wins over #6 Oregon and Arizona. His effort on Saturday Night put Benjamin over the century mark, and he now has 1,083-yards rushing this season.
While ASU’s offensive play-calling in the first-half was balanced, 17 pass attempts to 16 carries, the Sun Devils went full ground-and-pound to finish off UTucson in the second. Quarterback Jayden Daniels attempted just two throws while Benjamin had 24 prescribed runs.
“The second half we were able to run the football and that was good to see,” Herm Edwards said. “We owned the possession time, almost 35 minutes. Eno had a big night, the offensive line did a nice job.”
Eno Benjamin ran right through the Arizona defense this past weekend. pic.twitter.com/2DA09FHTgQ
— PFF College (@PFF_College) December 5, 2019
Benjamin’s 168 Territorial Cup rushing yards is the most since Woody Green ran for 192 yards on November 24, 1973. Prior to that, there were only two other rushing performances in the Game that out-matched Eno’s production: 187 yards by Art Malone on November 30, 1968, and again by Green with 172 yards on November 25, 1972.
“This game kinda turned out like our season, a season of two halves,” Coach Herm Edwards said after the win. “We started out very well this season, we sputtered a little bit, didn’t handle success very well. This game was kinda like that except it was flipped.”
Eno earned his 15th 100-yard rushing performance. He also became the first Sun Devil to rush for over 1,000 yards in consecutive seasons since Freddie Williams in 1974-75. EB3 was named MVP of the Territorial Cup Game. The win was the 3rd-straight Cup Victory for the Sun Devils!
“We did a good job, we had a gameplan like Jayden said. In the first half they were dropping everyone and trying to take away the big plays,” said Eno Benjamin. “We thought to just keep it simple, keep the ball on the ground and run it, and that’s what we did. The offensive line did a really good job as far as imposing their will…”
Junior running back Eno Benjamin joins Utah’s Zack Moss, while senior Brandon Aiyuk makes it both as a receiver AND punt returner
If NFL teams with any kind of need at any of those positions weren’t paying attention to them before, hard to understand why they wouldn’t be now https://t.co/jnrynrVodV
— Chris Gleason (@realchrisgleas1) December 3, 2019
SUN DEVIL FOOTBALL: MOST CAREER RUSHING-YARDS
4,188 — Woody Green (1971-73)
3,424 — Freddie Williams (1973-76)
3,299 — J.R. Redmond (1996-99)
3,202 – Demario Richard (2014-17)
3,173 — Wilford White (1947-50)
2,994 — Leon Burton (1955-58)
2,867 — Eno Benjamin (2017-present)
FROM THE CEO – COACH EDWARDS
“Our coaching staff did a nice job of keeping their message simple, just doing the little things right, I challenged our players after the Oregon State game because I was tired of losing. We lost four in a row. We got off to a very fast start, 5-1, but we didn’t handle success well. We beat Oregon, and it was a tough one. We knew Arizona was going to be a tough game, and it didn’t matter what we did last week because the win wouldn’t have mattered if we lost this one. You have to put a string of games together and we’ve done that now. The guys are excited about playing in a bowl game, and that’ll be a lot of fun.”
This was an important victory for Coach Herm Edwards who is now 14-11 as CEO in Tempe. In two seasons Edwards is 9-9 in the Pac-12 Conference and undefeated in the Territorial Cup. The win over UTuscon has positioned the Sun Devils for a better Bowl Game, and more importantly, at least two more weeks to practice.
Standing at 7-5 right now after a middling 7-6 performance last season, Herm Edwards needs to “play to win” the Bowl game and finish 2019 with eight wins. Moral victories will have little value in year three of his tenure.
There are 79 teams bowl-eligible this season, which is one more than is needed to fill all of the games. Toledo is projected to be the team left out this year. All Bowl Games selections will be announced this Sunday, December 8th.
BENJAMIN, AIYUK, DARBY, WILLIAMS
Despite a drop-off in carries this season, Eno Benjamin is poised to go by the fourth round of the 2020 Draft. Someone would get a steal in that case. Eno’s ability to block, catch and run draws comparisons to Marshall Faulk, Warrick Dunn and Mark Ingram II despite his recent flare of fumbles.
Eno Benjamin, Brandon Aiyuk and Michael Turk were featured on Pro Football Focus’ 2019 All-Pac-12 team.https://t.co/LJcj4gcudu
— 98.7 Arizona Sports (@AZSports) December 3, 2019
It would be nice to see Brandon Aiyuk play one more game, but his stats scream NFL early-round selection.
Frank Darby needs to show up huge in a Bowl Game to help his draft stock. He had another pass go right through his mitts on Saturday, but Darby will no-doubt be a freak at the Combines.
Kyle Williams has slot-receiver written all over him, and although he may not aspire to play in the league, he is a multifaceted talent.
More Good Stuff
— Earl Campbell Award (@CampbellAward) December 3, 2019
15: Eno Benjamin, Arizona State, #ForksUp
Benjamin is a special combination of strength, balance, speed, and pass-catching ability. He has a very high ceiling and could shoot up my ranks as the pre-draft process unfolds
— Matt Hicks (@TheFF_Educator) December 6, 2019
— The ASU Times (@ASUTimes) December 4, 2019