TEMPE - Arizona State kept alive its hopes of receiving an invitation to a BCS bowl game Saturday night with a 20-17 win over rival Arizona.
It was the Sun Devils' third straight win over the Wildcats and allowed them to retain possession of the Territorial Cup –- the trophy annually awarded to the game’s winner.
The victory at Sun Devil Stadium improved ASU’s record to 10-2 on the year and enabled them to finish as co-champions of the Pac-10 with Southern California. Both schools finished 7-2 in the league, but because USC defeated the Sun Devils on Thanksgiving, the Trojans will head to the Rose Bowl, should they not be selected to the BCS National Championship game Sunday.
Saturday night, the Sun Devils and Wildcats both struggled on offense for the better part of the game, but a late ASU touchdown proved to be the decisive blow. Leading 13-10, ASU quarterback Rudy Carpenter hit Mike Jones on a fade pattern in the left corner of the end zone for a 20-yard touchdown pass with 4:27 remaining to put the Sun Devils in command for good.
Arizona scored a touchdown with 0:26 remaining on a 4-yard touchdown pass from Willie Tuitama to Nicolas Grigsby, but ASU’s Ryan McFoy recovered the ensuing onside kick to cement the win.
Earlier, the Sun Devils had added to a three-point halftime lead on their first possession of the third quarter with a 21-yard field goal by Thomas Weber. It was the second drive ASU had a first-and-goal within three yards but could not score a touchdown. Arizona scored on a 31-yard field goal by Jason Bondzio with 8:47 left in the fourth quarter to cut the lead to 13-10.
In the first half, the Wildcats struck first midway through the first quarter on a 1-yard touchdown pass from Tuitama to Rob Gronkowski.
ASU evened the score five minutes into the second quarter on a 3-yard touchdown pass from Carpenter to Tyrice Thompson. The catch on what was a forehand toss from the quarterback, was the first career touchdown reception for the senior playing his final home game.
Later in the second, the Sun Devils went ahead on a 19-yard field goal by Weber but failed to get into the end zone after having a first-and-goal from the 1-yard line.
ASU’s Troy Nolan picked off Tuitama in the second quarter for his sixth interception of the year.
Due to a rash of upsets Saturday, including losses sustained by Missouri and West Virginia – the nation’s top two teams this week – it appears to be very uncertain at this moment as to which teams will be playing what bowl games, including the BCS National Championship game.
Arizona (5-7) needed a victory to become bowl eligible and keep its season alive. The Wildcats have yet to play in a bowl game or have a winning record under fourth-year coach Mike Stoops.
The pairings for all BCS bowl games will announced Sunday at 6:00 p.m. on FOX Channel 10.