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December 1, 2013
No. 13 ASU smacks rival Arizona, keeps Cup
Thirteenth-ranked Arizona State scored the first 27 points and said sayonara to in-state rival UA early Saturday night, running away with the Territorial Cup in a 58-21 thrashing at Sun Devil Stadium.
Just as Carey was simultaneously walking into the visitor's tunnel and past the rowdy fans - one with a photo of Todd Graham and the cup - the serenade reached a crescendo. Only, it was for Sun Devils star defensive tackle Will Sutton, who had the cup in hand and celebrated on the field as most of the 72,542 fans roared with his every step.
"It's just really settling down as an offense early and that's something we didn't do," said Carey, who ran for 157 yards and a touchdown on 32 carries.
"If we would've did that, game would've been a different story. We never got it moving, never got comfortable."
On this night, another running back, ASU's D.J. Foster, who started in place of injured starter Marion Grice, was the bigger factor with 124 rushing yards and two touchdowns. The sophomore was named the game's most valuable player.
The win also gave ASU (10-2, 8-1 Pac-12 Conference) home-field advantage in next Saturday's league championship game, with a right to play in the Rose Bowl on the line against No. 8 Stanford.
"My coaches and my teammates challenged me," Foster said. "I just tried to step up and my coaches and my teammates prepared me well for this week and I just wanted them to have the trust in me that nothing was going to let down."
Rich Rodriguez dropped to 0-2 in the Duel in the Desert as head coach of the Wildcats (7-5, 4-5 Pac-12), whose attention now turns to a jumbled bowl picture.
The loss snapped a four-game streak of the road team winning in the head-to-head series. Arizona dropped to 47-39-1 all-time against ASU.
"I'm not embarrassed of my players and I'm not embarrassed to be the coach. I'm just embarrassed we didn't play our best game," Rodriguez said. "I wish we would've but we didn't, and you've got to give (ASU) some of the credit for that, too. That's a good team. But we're certainly capable of playing better."
There would be no inkling early of Carey's 206-yard effort the previous week against then-No. 5 Oregon.
Although the UA junior topped 100 rushing yards for a Pac-12 record 15th consecutive game against an ASU defense that had not surrendered the feat in its last eight games, few runs came easy. The Sun Devils overpowered the Wildcats' offensive line on a pair of fourth-down Carey rushes - one for a loss of 7 yards, the other for no gain - with a 20-0 lead and less than 11 minutes to play in the opening half.
"We physically dominated the game," Graham said. "I thought we dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball."
The short-yardage failures would become a recurring theme.
"It was really just forcing B.J. to keep the ball," Carey said of the slow start. "We corrected it later on the game, which was just a little too late."
UA quarterback B.J. Denker failed to move the Wildcats beyond ASU's 45-yard line in any of their first five drives - the last of which resulted in the first of three interceptions for the senior.
After a De'Marieya Nelson 1-yard touchdown run - one of two on the evening for the ASU junior - Denker finally got the 'Cats on the board with his own rushing score to make it 27-7.
The defense then forced a quick three-and-out, but Jake Smith's missed 42-yard field goal attempt with 1:23 remaining in the half was a decision the typically aggressive Rodriguez quickly regretted.
"If I had to do it over again, I would go for it," he said. "I mean, I know it's hindsight but I was hesitant then. As soon as he missed the kick, of course it's easy to say we should go, but we should've went for it. That's on me."
Trailing 30-7 at the half, UA attempted to establish Carey early and it worked. Four of the first five plays - the first three for runs of 14, 15 and 19 yards - went to the nation's second-leading rusher. His fifth touch of the seven-play drive, an 8-yard score, pulled UA within 30-14 in less than three minutes.
Four plays and a Sione Tuihalamaka sack later - one of the senior's three on ASU quarterback Taylor Kelly - the Wildcats were back in business and threatening. But on third-and-4 from the ASU 38, Denker fired an interception and Damarious Randall returned it 64 yards to extend the lead to 37-14 and put an end to any of UA's comeback hopes.
"We ran that route probably four, five times all game," said Denker, who completed just 15 of 30 throws for 175 yards. "Got it the first four times and then they had like a little robber just looking at my eyes. He knew it was coming and he played it well.
"Too many mistakes on my part."
Randall finished with a game-high 12 tackles to go with a forced fumble and tackle for a loss.
"[Damarius] Randall is a big-time player," Graham said. "Our secondary has played big time all year long, and doesn't get a lot of credit. The interception for a touchdown was phenomenal."
Kelly, who was only slightly more accurate at 13-of-25 passing, threw for 274 yards - including 61 on a touchdown pass to Jaelen Strong with 70 seconds left before the fourth. That pushed the lead to 23 and made the final 15 minutes an early party.
For Arizona, it will be another year without the cup, and a missed opportunity to send its rivals on the road for the conference title game.
"It stings, you know?" UA safety Jared Tevis said. "We're going to work a whole 'nother year to try getting them back next year."