Arizona State beats rival Arizona 52-37
TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) Arizona State's seniors did not have the season they had anticipated. The goal of playing for a national championship was gone early, the hopes of a Pac-12 title not long after that.
Knocking off rival Arizona in their final home game will take a lot of the sting away.
Mike Bercovici threw for 315 yards and two touchdowns in his final home game and Arizona State returned two interceptions for touchdowns in the fourth quarter to knock off rival Arizona 52-37 on Saturday.
''This is what you dream about when you decide to be a Sun Devil,'' Bercovici said after completing 21 of 32 passes with an interception.
Arizona State (6-5, 4-4 Pac-12) sputtered offensively early before reeling off a string of big plays to build a 21-point halftime lead.
Arizona (6-6, 3-6) managed to claw its way back within a touchdown, but freshman Kareem Orr returned an interception 21 yards for a touchdown and senior Lloyd Carrington put the stake in the Territorial Cup, returning another 38 yards for a score on the next series.
Devin Lucien had nine catches for 190 yards, and the duo of Kalen Ballage and Demario Richards combined for 225 yards rushing to help balance out Arizona State's offense.
The Sun Devils finished with 565 total yards to become bowl eligible for the fifth straight season.
''The seniors put in so much work and to finish up like this against this team, that was a great day for us,'' Arizona State offensive coordinator Mike Norvell said.
Arizona struggled offensively in the first half without starting quarterback Anu Solomon (concussion). The Wildcats rallied after Brandon Dawkins replaced an ineffective Jerrard Randall in the second quarter, but mistakes tripped them up in the fourth quarter.
Dawkins threw for 305 yards and two touchdowns, including a 95-yarder to Trey Griffey. The redshirt freshman, who was battling an illness at halftime, faltered in the fourth quarter, though, throwing the two pick-sixes that sent the Territorial Cup back to the Sun Devils.
''We'll be all right,'' Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said. ''You don't want the taste of losing, but you learn from both. We've got to get better.''
Last year's Territorial Cup was the de facto Pac-12 South championship.
Unfulfilled expectations surrounded this game.
Arizona and Arizona State both beat Top-10 teams, but also had three-game losing streaks. The Wildcats locked up a bowl berth last week; the Sun Devils need one more victory to become bowl eligible.
Arizona State broke out of its early sputtering on a 58-yard pass from Bercovici to Lucien that set up Richard's bulldozing 8-yard touchdown run.
Next possession, Bercovici and Lucien hooked up again, this time for a 59-yard touchdown.
Bercovici followed with a mistake, throwing an interception to Cam Denson, who jumped the screen pass and raced in for a 21-yard touchdown.
It did nothing to slow the Sun Devils down.
Bercovici scored on a 1-yard run on the next drive then hit Jalen Harvey for his first career reception, a 41-yard touchdown.
A 65-yard, multiple-tackle-breaking run by Ballage set up Zane Gonzalez's last-second 29-yard field goal that put Arizona State up 31-10.
Arizona's offense stagnated without Solomon.
Randall, as he has much of the season, repeatedly overthrew receivers on deep routes or threw too hard on short passes. He was 4 for 13 for 35 yards and lost a fumble before being replaced by Dawkins.
The switch did little to change Arizona's fortunes in the first half. The Wildcats had 141 total yards in the half - six fewer than Lucien had receiving.
''A couple more drives we could have put in the end zone could have changed the outcome of the whole game,'' Dawkins said. ''Little things that we know we can correct.''
Arizona found a bit of a rhythm in the second half, getting a pair of field goals by Casey Skowron before Griffey zigzagged his way across the field for a 95-yard reception that pulled the Wildcats within 31-23.
Arizona State's offense woke up just in time after laboring through the third quarter. The Sun Devils moved 74 yards in 11 plays to set up D.J. Foster's 1-yard touchdown run and push the lead back to 15.
Dawkins found Tyrell Johnson for a 17-yard touchdown pass to make it a one-score game again, but his two interceptions helped seal the Territorial Cup for the Sun Devils.
''I like that win,'' Arizona State coach Todd Graham said. ''That is worth about five wins there.''
AP college football website: collegefootball.ap.org