Warm up the bus.
That’s a snarky one-liner often used to point out that a game has been decided early because one team is dominating the play. In Friday night’s Territorial Cup football game in Tucson, that sports-speak could have been applied well ahead of halftime.
Before the game reached the one-minute mark, Arizona State had two touchdowns that included a 100-yard-plus return (from the back of the end zone) on the opening kickoff. By halftime, the lead had expanded to 42-7 and a University of Arizona win was essentially out of reach.
That’s when the ASU bus drivers could have begun warming up the engines.
But the devastation didn’t end at halftime. The Sun Devils went on to post an embarrassing 70-7 blow-out. The 70 points surpassed the previous total for an ASU team in the annual rivalry game (61) set back in 1951 and is also only the second 70-point game in school history (they put up 79 points in 1969).
By the time the final seconds mercifully ticked off the clock at Arizona Stadium, there was little question that the humiliation would cost head coach Kevin Sumlin his job. Word came from the administration the next day that his third year at the helm would be his last.
The train wreck Friday night was just the final nail in the coffin. Sumlin, pictured above at Friday’s game with redshirt senior Jacob Meeker-Hackett from nearby Cienega High School, couldn’t post a winning season any of his three years and finished his time in Tucson with a 12-game losing streak that stretches back to early last season.
But Friday night, the Sun Devils gave Sumlin a swift kick on his way out the door. They ran up nearly 500 yards of total offense (227 passing, 259 rushing), averaging 7.7 yards per play, and a tenacious defense notched seven takeaways via three interceptions and four fumble recoveries. Total domination.
And it was a true freshman, D.J. Taylor, who was able to outrun the Arizona defense for the 100-yard kickoff return that started the avalanche of scoring that quickly turned into a rout. It was the first opening kickoff return for a TD since 2011. And by a kid who was in high school last year at this time.
To rub a little salt in the wound, junior transfer Rachaad White added a 93-yard run for a score in the second quarter. It was the first rushing TD of his career and the fifth-longest run in Sun Devil history.
The final insult was a one-yard touchdown run by Jackson He, a walk-on who gave the Cats their final score to push the total to 70 points. He is believed to be the first Chinese-born player among the FBS schools to score a touchdown. And did we mention he was a walk-on?
This win marks the fourth straight time that ASU has gone home with the Territorial Cup trophy, the first time that’s happened since the Wildcats pulled off a similar four-peat in the late ’80s.
Sumlin’s resume looked pretty good when Arizona hired him in January of 2018. He had just one losing record in 10 seasons as a head football coach at Houston and Texas A&M. But he couldn’t duplicate that success in Tucson, where he compiled a 9-20 overall record and won just six conference games.
It will cost the school about $7.5 million dollars to fire its coach with two years still left on his five-year contract. But Sumlin has left them no choice.
(Photo: Arizona Athletics)