The "12 Plays of Christmas" are back for another season as the team at House of Sparky unwraps 12 of the best gifts the Sun Devil football team brought us this year.
Last season, we introduced the "12 Plays of Christmas" as a way of spreading holiday cheer and reliving the top moments from the season. This year, we're back with a nomination list that seemingly never ended. Our writers put roughly 20 different plays on the ballot this year, but only 12 made the final cut.
Our handy point system assures there's less subjectivity than any competing lists for the top plays from this season.
This year, we made one amendment to the point system and decided that plays from the UCLA game that helped the Sun Devils clinch the Pac-12 South crown would be weighted equally with Territorial Cup plays. Here's what our point breakdown looks like:
1 Point: The play occurred in a Sun Devil loss
2 Points: The play changed the momentum of a game
3 Points: The play occurred in a Sun Devil victory
4 Points: The play led to a Sun Devil touchdown
5 Points: The play was a Sun Devil touchdown
6 Points: The play was a Sun Devil touchdown scored by the defense
7 Points: The play went for 40 or more yards (Big Play Factor)
8 Points: The play occurred in the 4th quarter of a Sun Devil victory
9 Points: The play was a touchdown in the 4th quarter of a Sun Devil victory
10 Points: The play led to the Territorial Cup Victory or the Pac-12 South clinching win against UCLA
Last season, we had five different plays make our list with 10 points or less. This year, our first play comes in with 13 points which goes to show how much of an improvement the Sun Devils made in 2013.
So without further ado, we kick off this season's 12 Plays of Christmas with our first selection.
Play(s) No. 12: D.J. Foster's touchdowns in the Pac-12 Championship game
1 point: The play(s) occurred in a Sun Devil loss
5 points: The play(s) was a touchdown
7 points: The play(s) went for 40 or more yards
Just like last year, we kick things off with two separate plays that we combined into one moment.
Though the Pac-12 Championship game was bleak for the Sun Devils, there was one shining star. Sophomore D.J. Foster put together two of the best plays from the entire season in the first half of the 38-14 loss for Arizona State.
After Stanford star Tyler Gaffney scored on a 69-yard touchdown run on the game's opening drive, the Sun Devils put the ball in the hands of their own running back and let him work some magic.
Arizona State rushed for just 50 yards in the first meeting between the two schools this season, but the vaunted Cardinal defense didn't deal with D.J. Foster in the first outing.
On Foster's second carry from scrimmage in the Pac-12 title game, the Saguaro High School grad cut right through the heart of the Stanford defense for a 51-yard touchdown run to even the score. Foster's first touchdown run nearly earned consideration for a "momentum changing play" in our points breakdown, but Stanford's offense appeared unfazed on its next few drives.
While Foster's touchdown run was impressive, folks were just beginning to see the electricity the sophomore wields on a game-by-game basis. With Arizona State trailing 28-7 late in the first half, the Sun Devils decided to put the ball in Foster's hands yet again and let him go to work.
The Sun Devils started at their own 35-yard line with 4:06 remaining in the first half. On 1st and 10, quarterback Taylor Kelly threw a quick swing pass to Foster in hopes that his running back could pick up a few yards and start the drive off on the right foot.
Instead, Foster turned the corner and scampered 65 yards for his second touchdown of the evening.
Foster's breakaway speed was on display as he made the first tackler miss one yard behind the line of scrimmage. After gathering himself, No. 8 darted toward the first down marker and cut along the sideline. By the time he reached his own 45-yard line, only linebacker Shayne Skov had a shot at catching him.
Skov was cut off by his own teammate, and his diving attempt at Foster fell short. The rest was history, as Foster sprinted for the end zone and scored his second touchdown of the night.
While the Sun Devils won't have many fond memories of the Pac-12 Championship game, D.J. Foster is one player who will remember the night forever.