Keelan Johnson came up big when the team needed it most - (Photo: ASU)
With the Sun Devils hopes of winning the Territorial Cup hanging on by a thread, Keelan Johnson delivered a season-defining play that sparked a stunning comeback win over the Arizona Wildcats.
A close examination of the Territorial Cup reveals an improbable amount of superior Sun Devil efforts that will go down in the history of the rivalry.
Marion Grice's incredible touchdown run, Kevin Ayers' heroic blocked punt, and Robert Nelson's fantastic interception return are not only among the best plays of the season for the Sun Devils, but they might one day receive recognition as some of the most important plays of the Todd Graham era.
When selecting the "Most Important" play of the season for the Sun Devils, any selection from the Territorial Cup would do the Arizona State football team justice. The unforgettable comeback effort will be remembered for years to come, but many people won't recall the most important play of the game.
So much time and energy will be focused on the game-breaking highlights that the play that defined the Arizona State season might be lost in translation.
With under nine minutes to play and the Arizona Wildcats driving deep into Sun Devil territory, quarterback Matt Scott made a fateful decision. With the ball barely nestled inside the red zone, Scott jetted left on a designed quarterback run on first down and 10 in order to make something happen.
At this point in the game, the Wildcats held a seven point lead and appeared ready to take a commanding two score lead.
The Sun Devils NEEDED to take the ball away from the Wildcats to have any chance at scoring a comeback win. Fortunately, Keelan Johnson delivered.
When Scott darted left, Johnson came up in run fill from his safety position. Scott hurdled a lineman at the line of scrimmage before Johnson stood the quarterback upright.
Normally, a safety uses this opportunity to inflict a devastating blow, but Johnson saw the way Scott was running as a chance to swing the momentum in Arizona State's favor.
Johnson twirled the Wildcat gunslinger around like a rag doll and ripped the football away from Scott's grip. The ball squirted behind the line of scrimmage and a race for possession ensued.
A number of Wildcats and Sun Devils gave chase before Arizona State cornerback Deveron Carr recovered the fumble at the 44-yard line.
Suddenly, a result destined to favor the Wildcats was now anything but certain. The Sun Devil sideline roared in delight at the sight of Keelan Johnson's game-saving strip and the offense spilled onto the field in a frenzy.
Six plays after Johnson ripped the Wildcats' hearts out, Marion Grice rumbled into the end zone for a game-tying touchdown and the rest was history.
In the most important game of the season, Keelan Johnson came up with the most important play.