None of the Arizona State football players were likely thinking much about the Territorial Cup back in November when they were facing a steep uphill climb in their season finale against University of Arizona.
But, as it turns out, their thrilling come-from-behind victory in that contest gave the Sun Devils a much-needed point to stay alive in their bid to keep the Territorial Cup in Tempe. And this year, that single point was especially critical.
The Cup series trophy goes each year to the school that accumulates 11 points, with a series win by each of the 21 common sports at their respective schools worth a single point.
There were plenty of contributions from the other varsity sports, with ASU points also earned by men’s basketball, women’s cross country, women’s swimming and diving, gymnastics, men’s golf, baseball, women’s tennis, men’s tennis, and women’s outdoor track & field.
But none of the teams earned their points in such dramatic fashion as football. The Devils were down 20 points going into the fourth quarter and clawed their way out of a deep hole to finish with a 41-40 victory.
Sophomore running back Eno Benjamin ran for three touchdowns on the day, the last one putting the Devils ahead for the win, and the defense shut the door on the Cats to hold them scoreless in the final frame.
It’s been more than two decades since any ASU team had a fourth-quarter comeback that matches what the 2018 team did.
ASU’s total team wins at the end of the year gave the Sun Devils 10.5 points toward the Territorial Cup, with the half point contributed by women’s basketball, which split its two games with the Wildcats.
That means the other 10.5 points went to their rival down south. And that created the tie this year.
But there are rules in place to handle this kind of a situation. The rules state that the school with the higher finish in the Directors’ Cup standings will be awarded possession of the Territorial Cup – and the bragging rights that go with it – for another year. The Learfield IMG College Directors’ Cup standings rank the nation’s best overall sports programs.
ASU finished 19th with 821 points, thanks in large part to strong postseason performances by various sports teams. Zahid Valencia won a national championship in wrestling, the women’s basketball team made it to the Sweet 16, the men’s hockey team made its first-ever appearance in the postseason, and both golf programs and the swimming teams added a significant number of points to the total.
The Wildcats checked in 22 points down the list of D-I programs at No. 41.
Thus…Territorial Cup to the Sun Devils, their fifth win in the last six years.
(Photo: ASU Athletics)