Arizona State turns attention to Stanford
December, 1, 2013
By Ted Miller | ESPN.com
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Don't be baffled that Arizona State did not seem too euphoric Saturday after stomping archrival Arizona 58-21. While many might raise a surprised eyebrow at the final count, considering seven of the previous nine Territorial Cups were decided by a touchdown or less, or at the Sun Devils improving to 10-2 and getting ready to host Stanford in the Pac-12 title game, this is exactly what Arizona State expected to be happening way back in August.
This was all part of the plan for Year 2 under coach Todd Graham, and the Sun Devils don't feel like they will have completed their plan until they find themselves representing the Pac-12 in the Rose Bowl.
“This was great tonight, but it’s not the one we’re after," Graham said. "The one we’re after is next week."
So leave the emotions of this bitter rivalry for fans to revel in at the expense of their friends from Tucson. The Sun Devils needed little time to start eyeballing Stanford, a team that beat them 42-28 on Sept. 21, a winning Cardinal margin that was 39-7 entering the fourth quarter.
And Arizona State is thrilled it will be eyeballing the Cardinal inside its home stadium. The Sun Devils improved to 7-0 this season at home, with an average margin of victory of 28 points.
Matt Kartozian/USA TODAY SportsBeating Arizona was nice for QB Taylor Kelly and the Sun Devils, but their real goal is beating Stanford in the Pac-12 championship game.
As for this one, the Sun Devils scored early and often in a dominant performance. It was 13-0 after the first quarter and 30-7 at the half. The defense produce a pair of fourth-and-1 stops in the first half against Wildcats All-America running back Ka'Deem Carey and grabbed an interception. When the Wildcats seemed poised to make a move in the third quarter, Damarious Randall went 64 yards on a pick-six to end Arizona's chances.
"I think our team is playing better and better every night," Graham said. "We dominated the game, dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball."
Arizona was coming off an impressive victory over Oregon. Yet these Wildcats looked nothing like the efficient bunch that bested the Ducks 42-16. Quarterback B.J. Denker threw three interceptions, and the Wildcats also lost a fumble.
Said Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez, who falls to 0-2 against Graham, “It was embarrassing.”
The Sun Devils posted the dominant win without their best offensive weapon, running back Marion Grice, who won't play in the title game either due to an undisclosed injury. Yet into Grice's spot stepped D.J. Foster, who had been primarily a slot receiver this year. He rushed for 124 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries and caught two passes for 26 yards.
"Some people forgot how good a player he is," quarterback Taylor Kelly said.
Kelly passed for 274 yards and two scores, his top target being Jaelen Strong, who hauled in four passes for 142 yards and 61-yard TD.
The big question, however, for the Sun Devils against Stanford will be stopping the run. Carey rushed for 157 of the Wildcats' 249 yards on the ground, and the Sun Devils know they will get a steady diet of Stanford's power running game on Saturday.
Arizona State has played the third-most-difficult schedule in the FBS behind Utah and California, according to ESPN Stats & Information, and the Sun Devils own victories over three teams -- Wisconsin, USC and UCLA -- that entered the week nationally ranked.
It's been a distinguished season, no matter what happens in the Pac-12 title game. But, while happy with an impressive win against Arizona, there was a decided lack of self-satisfaction among the players and coaches not long after the game.
"We understand we haven't accomplished our true goal yet," Arizona State cornerback Osahon Irabor said.
That goal is the program's first Rose Bowl since the 1996 season.