ASU football has momentum going into Duel in the Desert

Arizona ran up 506 yards of total offense against the No. 1 team in the country last week.  And Arizona State stacked up 595 yards in a win over UCLA.

And Thursday they play each other in the annual Duel in the Desert rivalry, with the Territorial Cup awaiting the winner.

This one could be a barn-burner!

The Wildcats lost their game against Oregon, 48-29, but they found out they can play against a no-huddle, quick-strike offense, which is what ASU runs.  But they were able to contain it for just half a game.

The Sun Devils’ 55-34 win built some momentum heading into the season finale in Tucson.  At 5-6, they still have an outside chance at landing a bowl bid.  They just have to beat Arizona, which dropped a couple of notches in the BCS standings, but is still ranked No. 23.

A win against a ranked opponent would certainly help their chances at an at-large bid.

The Cats, at 7-4, already secured bowl eligibility.  But they’ve dropped the last three games after a great start to the season, so they need a quality win as the bowl committees give them a look.  Besides, it’s ASU in a must-win rivalry meeting.

The Sun Devils have to be riding the biggest emotional wave of the season, as their back-up quarterback rode in like the White Knight to save the UCLA game – and possibly a chance at a bowl invite.

Brock Osweiler took over when Steven Threet suffered a concussion in the first quarter, the result of a sack by UCLA linebacker, Sean Westgate.  At that point, the Devils were off to a lethargic start, producing just one first down in its first two drives, and soon found themselves in a 17-0 hole.

Talk about setting the stage for a grand entrance by the back-up!

The 6’8″ sophomore responded by completing 27 of 36 passes for 380 yards and four touchdowns.  He brought a new energy to the offense in the first half, throwing TD passes to Aaron Pflugrad, Mike Willie, and Gerell Robinson to enable the Devils to go into halftime with a 21-20 lead.

And that has earned Osweiler the starting job for the big game in Tucson, as head coach, Dennis Erickson, announced before practices start this week.

But Osweiler had lots of help.  Cameron Marshall ran for 147 yards, including a 71-yard scamper for a score; Jamal Miles returned a kickoff 99 yards for another touchdown; Deantre Lewis caught six passes out of the backfield for 105 yards; and Kerry Taylor pulled in six passes for a 68-yard contribution.

The Miles kickoff return set a new school record, since he was the third player this season to make a 99-yard return for a score.  He and Osweiler were also given Pac-10 Player of the Week honors for their performances against UCLA.

So the Sun Devils are on a roll and pumped for Thursday’s game in Tucson.  Their hosts are just looking for a way to get back up after getting knocked down the past three games.  Before the Oregon loss, they dropped a 3-point heart-breaker to USC and lost to No. 4 Stanford, 42-17.

And the Oregon game was a roller-coaster of emotions that ended with Arizona suffering a demoralizing loss on a cold, rainy afternoon in Eugene.

Hopes were high at the start as Nick Foles directed a 16-play drive that covered 60 yards and culminated in a Juron Criner pass reception for eight yards and the score, putting them on the board first.  They kept the Ducks on their heels throughout the first half, going into intermission with a 19-14 lead.

But Oregon changed the momentum right after the half, as Josh Huff ran 85 yards for a score, and then followed that with a 99-yard touchdown drive that took 19 plays.  Oregon scored 20 points in the third quarter and were in control the rest of the way.

Foles had a career night, passing for 448 yards and three touchdowns.

Arizona will have to hope the 6’5″ junior has one more of those games left in the tank.  And Arizona State also needs a repeat performance from its new starting QB.

If that happens, this duel could be One for the Ages.

(Photo: ASU Athletics)