NCAA FB

Sun Devils get leg up on Wildcats in rivalry

Share This Story

   
 

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP)

(Eds: Updates with more details and quotes. With AP Photos.)By JOHN MARSHALLAP College Football Writer

The fast start to the season was great. So was ending a losing streak and sending the seniors off in style in their final home game.

Becoming bowl eligible checked off one of the top goals for the season.

But of all that Arizona State (7-5, 5-4 Pac-12) accomplished this season, beating rival Arizona was the one thing coach Todd Graham wanted most in his first season in the desert.

It was about bragging rights, getting a leg up on in-state recruiting, giving a boost to the fans and alumni.

Above all that, the Sun Devils' dramatic win over the Wildcats on Friday night was validation for Graham that his makeover of the program is on the right track.

''It can't be any bigger, just like on the other end of it, if we wouldn't have won, it would have been the worst thing that could have happened,'' Graham said. ''I'm elated. I'm just thrilled to death.''

The win completed a long road of confirmation for Graham.

The former high school coach from Texas came to Arizona State with a reputation for not following through.

Graham spent one season as the head coach at Rice, leaving for Tulsa days after signing a contract extension with the Owls. He led the Golden Hurricane to three bowl wins in four years before heading out for Pittsburgh, a job he believed was a step up.

Graham bolted Pitt after one mediocre season, leaving the Panthers bitter and sending up red flags in the desert for Sun Devils fans who saw their football team as a destination, not a stopover to a better job.

That's when Graham went to work.

Stumping for a job he already had, Graham went around shaking hands and talking to fans like he was a politician on the campaign trail.

Preaching discipline and an up-tempo style that would be fun to watch, Graham managed to generate interest in the crowded Phoenix sports market and beyond.

The Sun Devils lived up to the hype early in the season, playing almost penalty-free and at a pace that left opponents breathless while winning five of their first six games.

Arizona State went through a stretch of adversity after that, losing four straight games before clinching bowl eligibility by rolling over Washington State in its seniors' final home game.

The only thing left was to beat Arizona, which Graham had said was his top priority from the day he got the job.

The Sun Devils did just that, helping their coach land the first blow against rival coach Rich Rodriguez, his former boss at West Virginia, while securing their first winning season since 2007.

''This was definitely a must,'' Graham said. ''This was the first check on the list of the fans when I talked to them: `This game, coach, you better win this game.' So I'm proud to bring it back to them.''

The Sun Devils did it in dramatic fashion.

After a close first half, the Wildcats appeared to be headed toward a lopsided win by scoring 18 points in the third quarter, leading 27-17 and seemingly with all the momentum on their side.

Arizona State quickly snatched it back, scoring 24 points in the fourth quarter for a 41-34 victory at Arizona Stadium.

When it was over, Graham took the Territorial Cup on a victory lap of sorts in the stadium of his biggest rival, giving Arizona State's fans a chance to reach out and touch it.

Inside the Sun Devils' locker room, Graham presented the cup to former ASU coach Frank Kush, someone he has become close to as he's tried to bridge the program's past to the present.

Graham also received a text message from his predecessor, Dennis Erickson, and was nearly hoarse after climbing the narrow stairs from the visitor's locker room to the field where he addressed the media.

''I'm proud of him,'' Arizona State freshman running back D.J. Foster said. ''I know this is something he really wanted.''

The Sun Devils still have some work to do with a yet-to-be-determined bowl next month.

Whatever happens, this first season under Graham has been an unqualified success, if only for that one game - the one the coach wanted the most.

Tagged: Arizona, Arizona State

Related Stories

Member Comments

Please note by clicking on "Post comment" you acknowledge that you have read the Terms of Use and the comment you are posting is in compliance with such terms. Be Polite. Inappropriate posts may be removed by the moderator.

powered by

College Football Pick'em on FOX


NCAA FB Videos

Mark Emmert against unionization Posted: Apr 06, 2014
NCAA president Mark Emmert comments on unionization for student-athletes.

Northwestern athletes win unionization case Posted: Mar 26, 2014
FOX Football debates the implications of student-athletes being able to unionize...

Saban lectures media on Kouandjio's injury Posted: Mar 12, 2014
Nick Saban has some words for the media after the way Cyrus Kouandjio's knee inj...

Get Inside the Locker Room with Scout.com

Fox Sports Store

    itemName itemURL imageSrc price itemDescription
    Nike Florida Gators Gridiron 2012 Team Issue T-Shirt - Royal Blue http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Florida_Gators/browse/featuredproduct/759777/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_759000/ff_759777_xl.jpg&w=100 24.95 Nike Florida Gators Gridiron 2012 Team Issue T-Shirt - Royal Blue
    Nike Michigan State Spartans Football 2012 Team Issue T-Shirt - White http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Michigan_State_Spartans/browse/featuredproduct/760171/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_760000/ff_760171_xl.jpg&w=100 24.95 Nike Michigan State Spartans Football 2012 Team Issue T-Shirt - White
    Nike USC Trojans Fight On My School T-Shirt - Cardinal http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_USC_Trojans/browse/featuredproduct/761373/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_761000/ff_761373_xl.jpg&w=100 24.95 Nike USC Trojans Fight On My School T-Shirt - Cardinal
    Nike Alabama Crimson Tide Elite Force Coaches Sideline Performance Polo - Crimson http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Alabama_Crimson_Tide/browse/featuredproduct/829709/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_829000/ff_829709_xl.jpg&w=100 64.95 Nike Alabama Crimson Tide Elite Force Coaches Sideline Performance Polo - Crimso..
    Nike LSU Tigers Elite Force Coaches Sideline Performance Polo - Purple http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_LSU_Tigers/browse/featuredproduct/829740/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_829000/ff_829740_xl.jpg&w=100 49.99 Nike LSU Tigers Elite Force Coaches Sideline Performance Polo - Purple
    Nike Oklahoma Sooners Legacy 91 Dri-FIT Adjustable Coaches Cap - Crimson http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Oklahoma_Sooners/browse/featuredproduct/830935/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_830000/ff_830935_xl.jpg&w=100 21.95 Nike Oklahoma Sooners Legacy 91 Dri-FIT Adjustable Coaches Cap - Crimson
    adidas Notre Dame Fighting Irish Hot Sideline Jacket - Navy Blue http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Notre_Dame_Fighting_Irish/browse/featuredproduct/861243/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_861000/ff_861243_xl.jpg&w=100 69.95 adidas Notre Dame Fighting Irish Hot Sideline Jacket - Navy Blue
    adidas Nebraska Cornhuskers Sideline Hot Quarter Zip Jacket - Scarlet http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Nebraska_Cornhuskers/browse/featuredproduct/861247/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_861000/ff_861247_xl.jpg&w=100 69.95 adidas Nebraska Cornhuskers Sideline Hot Quarter Zip Jacket - Scarlet
    Nike Alabama Crimson Tide 2012 BCS National Champions Players Locker Room Snapback Hat - Charcoal/Black http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Alabama_Crimson_Tide/browse/featuredproduct/1087345/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1087000/ff_1087345_xl.jpg&w=100 29.95 Nike Alabama Crimson Tide 2012 BCS National Champions Players Locker Room Snapba..
    Nike Alabama Crimson Tide 2012 BCS National Champions Locker Room T-Shirt - Ash http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Alabama_Crimson_Tide/browse/featuredproduct/1093431/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1093000/ff_1093431_xl.jpg&w=100 24.95 Nike Alabama Crimson Tide 2012 BCS National Champions Locker Room T-Shirt - Ash