Play No. 10: Marion Grice slices and dices his way into the end zone against Washington State to give the Sun Devils a commanding lead.
3 Points: Play occurred in a Sun Devil Victory
5 Points: Play resulted in a Sun Devil touchdown
Total: 8 Points
For the third consecutive day, the team at House of Sparky unwraps a Sun Devil gift that finished with eight total points. Ultimately, we based our decision off of the fact that Grice's touchdown was easily the superior individual effort AND the play occurred in a Sun Devil victory.
When Arizona State hosted the Washington State Cougars, the Sun Devils did so with their spirits beaten, battered, and torn apart. After opening the season on a tear at 5-1, the Sun Devils dropped four consecutive tilts against ranked opponents that left bowl eligibility a mystery.
The Sun Devils could not seem to break through against top-flight competition, and many fans began to call for Taylor Kelly's replacement at quarterback. The Arizona State offense looked particularly stagnant against USC and Oregon State, and the Washington State game loomed large.
Questions from critics surrounded the team in the week leading up to the Washington State game. Was the early season success was simply a fluke? Did Todd Graham make the necessary changes to get this program back on track? Would the Sun Devils be prepared to hang with a resurgent Arizona Wildcats squad in the following week?
When the Sun Devils took the field against the Cougars, their performance spoke louder than words as they answered the above questions emphatically.
Arizona State looked like a team lacking players with game-breaking ability in the four weeks prior to Washington State, and the Sun Devils first few drives remained largely methodical. In fact, the offense had just three plays of more than ten yards in a dominant first quarter effort.
As the Sun Devils came out for the second quarter, they looked to open things up against a reeling Cougars squad feeling the effects of an early 18-point deficit.
After the first drive of the second quarter stalled, the Sun Devils regained possession after limiting Washington State to a four-play drive.
With 8:58 remaining in the second quarter, Arizona State took the ball on their own 34-yard line. Taylor Kelly helped march the offense down the field as the Sun Devils picked up three consecutive first downs.
Suddenly, Washington State picked up the intensity and curtailed Taylor Kelly on two attempts in which he attempted to pick up yards on the ground. Facing a long third down, the Sun Devils needed a player to step up and keep the momentum alive.
Enter Marion Grice.
On third and 10, Arizona State aligned with two receivers and a tight end to the right with a split receiver to the left. Washington State accounted for all four receivers as they jetted toward the first down marker in their routes, but the Cougars forgot about running back Marion Grice who aligned next to Kelly in shotgun formation.
At the snap of the football, Grice took off on a swing route to Kelly's right and remained uncovered when the pressure got to the Sun Devil quarterback. Kelly stepped up in the pocket and delivered the ball to Grice who caught the pass behind the line of scrimmage.
Upon catching the football, Marion Grice took over.
The Sun Devil running back cut inside past a Cougar defender, escaped the grasp of two charging defensive lineman, juked another member of the Washington State secondary, and kept on running past the first down marker.
Grice's catch and run was not yet finished as he continued his sprint towards the middle of the field. Grice shed another tackler around the six-yard line before executing a memorable jump cut that had a Cougar linebacker whiffing on a tackle attempt.
At the three-yard line, Grice's journey appeared over as a would-be-tackler set up in perfect position to stop No. 1 short of the goal line, but Grice deked back toward the right hash mark before launching himself into the end zone for the Sun Devil touchdown.
On his way to pay dirt, eight different Washington State defenders had a clear-cut opportunity to bring down the Sun Devil running back and a ninth approached Grice in the final seconds of his run, but he would not be denied as he willed himself into the end zone.
Grice's run might be one of the most impressive individual efforts a Sun Devil player made this season, and would have catapulted up our "12 Plays" list if not for the fact that the Washington State game was well in hand, even early on in the second quarter.
However, Grice's play-making display clearly impacted the Arizona State coaching staff, as they rewarded the junior with the lion's share of the carries the following week against Arizona.
Luckily for the Sun Devils, Grice's Washington State effort won't be his last appearance as he brought too much flair to limit himself to just one mention.
Stay tuned as tomorrow, House of Sparky unveils Play No. 9 on our "12 Plays of Christmas" countdown.
For a complete breakdown of our "12 Plays of Christmas" click here