ASU, UA football still rolling with wins over Wash. schools

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                </div>  Like two speeding trains running on the same track, Arizona’s Pac-12 football teams hurtled a little closer to that collision that is coming in the final game of the […]<!-- AddThis Sharing Buttons below -->
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Like two speeding trains running on the same track, Arizona’s Pac-12 football teams hurtled a little closer to that collision that is coming in the final game of the season.

Arizona State beat Washington last night and University of Arizona rolled over Washington State as both schools ran their records to 6-1 overall.  The Sun Devils are 4-1 in the conference and in first place in the South Division, while Arizona is 3-1 and right behind in a second-place tie with Utah.

On top of that, they are snuggled together on the national rankings ladder, with ASU sitting at No. 14 and UofA at No. 15 — although that may change after this weekend.  But what won’t change is that both teams now have the six wins necessary to become bowl eligible.

There are four games left before the in-state rivals meet this year in Tucson to determine who will win the annual battle of the Territorial Cup.  And that road to the season finale – and the South Division championship – definitely favors the Sun Devils who play Utah next Saturday for their final game against a South Division opponent.

Arizona also plays Utah, another  6-1 team, but must also fend off UCLA and Colorado along the way.  The 3-2 Bruins are up next and Utah will be their last opponent before meeting ASU.

And let’s not forget that Arizona State still has an opportunity to take a huge leap in the polls since their match-up with No. 7 Notre Dame is just two games away.  An upset victory there would catapult them into the top 10 and give the program momentum that would carry them through the final two games  – much like a huge boulder rolling downhill.  Heck, even if they just play well against the Irish, it would be a big lift to their confidence level.

The Sun Devils weren’t exactly dominant last night in a game that was tied at 10-10 with just over seven minutes left in the game before the Devils pulled away to a 24-10 win.  A windy, rain-filled night in Seattle helped hold down the offensive output for both teams, with ASU managing just 285 total yards, a season low.  The Huskies rushed for just 151 yards – but that was 46 more than the Devils could accumulate on the ground.

Winds that were clocked at more than 40 mph also put a damper on the return of ASU quarterback Taylor Kelly, who finished the game with 180 yards passing and two touchdowns – but was sacked seven times and intercepted once.  This was his first game under center since injuring his foot in mid-September.

As it turned out, it was the impressive performance of the ASU defense, that has held its opponent to 10 points in two consecutive games, that spelled the difference in this one.  The defense held Washington – which came into the game averaging 32.7 points a game – to just 290 yards of total offense and forced a season-high three turnovers.

A young, but quickly-maturing D unit also recorded another season high with 13 tackles for loss, led by redshirt sophomore linebacker Laiu Moeakiola‘s 10 tackles, two sacks, and a forced fumble.

Over in Pullman, in an afternoon game, the Wildcats went about putting their win away early by taking a 31-0 lead before Washington State could get on the board.  It was 31-16 at intermission and the Cats opened the second half by scoring three more times to put the 59-37 win on ice. The 59 points are the most scored in a conference game since the 2008 season.

The Arizona defense, too, played a major part in this win by forcing two turnovers, a pair of interceptions, and four sacks.  Jared Tevis, a redshirt senior safety from Canyon del Oro High School in Tucson, led the way with 13 tackles and a sack.  And sophomore linebacker Scooby Wright III seemed to be everywhere, collecting eight sacks and forcing three fumbles to disrupt the Cougar offense at every opportunity.  Today he was named the Walter Camp Defensive Player of the Week for his performance.

And the Arizona special teams accounted for two scores when Chaparral High grad DaVonte’ Neal took a punt return 81 yards for a score on the Cats’ first possession of the game and again much later when Cayleb Jones returned an attempted onside kick with 6:09 left to play.

“We got contributions from all three phases, which was nice,” said third-year head coach Rich Rodriguez after the game.  “The defense made some plays, special teams was huge, and offensively in both the first quarter and third quarter, we executed pretty well coming out of the gates.”

Washington actually outgained the Cats, 543 to 451 yards, and held the ball for almost 10 minutes more than Arizona.  But the Cats were more efficient, scoring all six times they entered the red zone and capitalizing on Washington errors by scoring 14 points off turnovers.

(Photo: ASU Athletics)