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Recap: Arizona State Keeps Territorial Cup in Tempe, Defeats Wildcats 38-15

The Arizona State Sun Devils keep the Territorial Cup in Tempe for a fifth straight season, defeating the Arizona Wildcats in the final home game of the season.
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The Arizona State Sun Devils kept the Territorial Cup in Tempe for yet another season with a 38-15 victory over the Arizona Wildcats on Saturday. 

It didn't come easy for the Sun Devils, as their in-state rivals failed to allow Arizona State any sort of large lead throughout the first half.

Arizona State managed to gain the win despite a handful of key injuries:

Playing in their final home game of the season at Sun Devil Stadium, here's how the action panned out in a victory that will keep the Territorial Cup with Arizona State for five years running, the longest streak in the series since Arizona won five in a row from 1982-86:

First-Half Recap

The Wildcats took Arizona State's defense by surprise on the first possession of the game, gaining 67 yards on their first two plays to put themselves in scoring position almost immediately. 

However, the Sun Devils defense anchored themselves and limited the Wildcats to a field goal to kick the scoring off, as Arizona climbed to an early 3-0 lead. 

Arizona State answered with a scoring drive of its own, marching 75 yards on nine plays to score a touchdown on a Ricky Pearsall catch and run. ASU led 7-3 with both teams scoring on their first possession of the game. 

Arizona once again moved in to scoring position, gaining a total of 149 offensive yards in the first quarter. 

However, the Sun Devils again forced a Wildcats field goal, trimming ASU's lead to one point, 7-6 in the early part of the second quarter. 

Looking to take the lead, Arizona regained possession following a Sun Devils punt, but quickly saw a change of possession by way of a Jack Jones strip-sack, setting the Sun Devils up at Arizona's 1-yard line.

Rachaad White punch it in only three seconds later, jumping over the top and extending Arizona State's lead to 14-6. 

It appeared as if the Sun Devils were about to take full control of the game. Arizona State had crucial fourth-and-1 at the Arizona 40-yard line with 5:40 left in the second quarter. 

Knowing the Sun Devils would get the ball back after halftime, a successful conversion would have put Arizona State up by two possessions with little time for the Wildcats to cut into the lead before the break. 

However, coming out of a timeout, the Sun Devils took themselves out of threatening position thanks to a false start, forcing ASU to punt the ball away. 

Arizona took advantage of the new opportunity, driving down the field and adding another field goal before halftime. 

The Sun Devils carried 14-9 lead into the break. 

Only one of Arizona's 216 net yards came from rushing (quarterback sacks count against rushing yards). Arizona State's bend but don't break defense proved to be the difference in the opening two quarters of play, with the Wildcats driving to the ASU 1-, 10- and 14-yard line before settling for field goals in each instance. 

Second-Half Recap

At halftime, an Arizona player was assessed a personal foul for getting into a physical altercation with one of the Sun Devils, forcing the Wildcats to kick off from their own 20-yard line. 

That was no help for Arizona, as the Sun Devils found the end zone via a 48-yard Jayden Daniels rushing touchdown to put ASU ahead 21-9 after the first possession of the second half. 

Arizona answered on the following drive, scoring its first touchdown of the game. The Wildcats were once again faced with a fourth-down decision deep in Arizona State territory, yet this time Arizona kept the offense on the field and picked up the first down, eventually scoring two plays later. 

However, another unsportsmanlike conduct penalty following the play on Arizona resulted in an ejection for Dorian Singer, a receiver who had caught two passes for 80 yards.

The Sun Devils then marched on a 10-play, 78-yard touchdown drive that was once again sealed by a Pearsall catch. 

Arizona State saw see their lead grow by two touchdowns after a successful two-point try, 29-15, with under five minutes left in the third quarter. 

After a Stanley Lambert sack push Arizona back to its own 4-yard line, a holding call that occurred in the end zone on the ensuing punt gave the Sun Devils a safety, putting Arizona State clear in the driver's seat 31-15 with just over a minute left before the fourth quarter. 

The Sun Devils gained 116 yards rushing in the third quarter. 

Only down by two possessions in the early stages of the fourth quarter, Arizona again threatened to score. 

However, Sun Devils cornerback Jack Jones shut down any hope of a comeback, returning an interception 87 yards for a touchdown. Arizona State increased their lead to 38-15 with 9:49 remaining, virtually eliminating any hope of a Wildcats comeback.

The Wildcats again drove to red zone, but turned the ball over on downs with 5:51 left in the game. The Sun Devils successfully bled the rest of the clock, ending the game with a final score of 38-15.

Arizona State finishes the 2021 regular season with a record of 8-4, and now awaits its bowl-game destiny, set to be announced Sunday, Dec. 5 when the College Football Playoff rankings are finalized. 

The win also gives Arizona State its best record to end the regular season since 2014 (9-3).

Although many things have not fallen in Arizona State's favor this season, fans can at least take some pride in the Territorial Cup staying with the Sun Devils.