After dominating UA, ASU meets Stanford for Pac-12 title

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                </div>  Is Arizona State football really this good!?  Sure looks like it. The Sun Devils’ domination of the Arizona Wildcats Saturday night in Tempe in the regular-season finale put an […]<!-- AddThis Sharing Buttons below -->
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Is Arizona State football really this good!?  Sure looks like it.

The Sun Devils’ domination of the Arizona Wildcats Saturday night in Tempe in the regular-season finale put an exclamation mark on Todd Graham‘s second season as head coach in Tempe and officially wrapped up a 10-2 record that is the first 10-win season in six years.

ASU’s 58-21 victory over the Cats wasn’t a fluke.  They’ve scored more than 50 points six times this season during what is generally regarded as one of the toughest D-I schedules in the country.

And Arizona isn’t a bad team.  The Cats stunned then-No. 3 Oregon the week before in one of the biggest upset wins in the school’s program.

But ASU scored on its first four possessions against Arizona, racked up a three-touchdown lead at the half, and ran its home winning streak this season to 7-0 to retain rights to the Territorial Cup for a second straight year.

ASU had its visitors back on their heels throughout the first half.  The Sun Devils had built a 27-0 lead with 8:04 still to play before intermission.  D.J. Foster, the sophomore from Saguaro High School in nearby Scottsdale, led the ground attack with a career-high 124 yards, sophomore receiver Jaelen Strong added another 142 yards on receptions, and junior quarterback Taylor Kelly completed 13 passes to eight different receivers for 274 yards in the air and two touchdowns.

And the Devil defense haunted Arizona QB B.J. Denker throughout the game, intercepting the senior signal caller three times and never letting the Wildcat offense get on track.  The interception in the third quarter by Damarius Randall was the final nail in the coffin, as Randall took the pick 64 yards for the score that reversed a brief surge by the Cats and put the Devils up 37-14.

The win moved the Sun Devils up a rung on the BCS ladder; they now sit at No. 11 in the BCS standings.

Arizona’s second-year head coach, Rich Rodriguez, felt his team didn’t play their best game against the Devils.  “We played poorly and they didn’t,” he said after the game.

“After halftime, there were adjustments on both sides, but they took it away.  We have to give them credit and, unfortunately, we didn’t have a very good game tonight.  It was embarrassing.”

But Arizona is not the first team the Sun Devils have embarrassed this season.  They beat USC so badly (62-41) that the school fired its head coach, Lane Kiffin, before he even got back to campus.  They also upset Big 10 power Wisconsin when the Badgers were ranked No. 20, and later stunned then-No. 14 UCLA.

While Rodriguez laid much of the blame for Saturday’s loss on the poor play of his team, ASU would have been hard to handle for most teams on that night.  “We physically dominated the game,” said Graham amid the euphoria after the game.  “I thought we dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.”

Except for a let-down in the third game of the season, ASU has been solid – on both sides of the ball.  They lost that game to then-No. 5 Stanford in California and let the Cardinal run all over them en route to a 42-28 whupping; their only other loss was by three points to Notre Dame.

How good are the Sun Devils this season? Consider this…

– They ran up 478 yards of total offense against Arizona – despite the fact that their leading rusher, Marion Grice, watched the game from the sidelines, propped up on crutches while recovering from a lower leg injury suffered in the previous game.  This team has depth.

– They outscored Arizona in points off turnovers (28-0), but they’ve been doing that all season long.  The Devils have forced a turnover in 26 straight games, third-longest active streak among FBS schools, and have accumulated 17 touchdowns off of 30 turnovers.  Their +13 turnover margin leads the Pac-12.

– They are incredibly efficient in the red zone, having scored 56 times in 58 trips into the zone.  They were six-for-six against the Wildcats.

– They have a quarterback that can run and throw.  Kelly just broke the 32-year-old school record for ‘total points responsible for’.  He has been responsible for 210 points on 27 passing and eight rushing touchdowns.

– And, when the game is on the line, they have a kicker they count on for that game-winning field goal.  Freshman Zane Gonzalez has converted on 18 straight attempts, going back to the Sept. 28 game against USC, and is 88 percent accurate on the year.  His 23-yard boot late in the first half of the Arizona game broke the school record.

Next Saturday the Devils, with the best record in the conference at 8-1, get another shot at No. 7 Stanford (10-2, 7-2), this time on their own field, an advantage they secured by beating Arizona.  The victor in the clash between south and north division winners will be crowned the Pac-12 champion for 2013 – and, even more important to any conference team, will represent the Pac-12 in the Rose Bowl.

“This (Arizona win) was great, but it’s not the one we’re after,” says Graham.  “I can guarantee you we’re going to work every second of this week.  It’s going to be devoted to bringing home a Pac-12 championship and a return to the Rose Bowl.”

(Photo: ASU Athletics)