ASU Football: "12 Plays of Christmas" No. 2 Strong's streak route seals the Territorial Cup

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Most Territorial Cup touchdowns scored by Sun Devils are a thing of beauty, but Jaelen Strong took that phrase to an entirely different level.

When Arizona State hosted Arizona in the Territorial Cup, the Sun Devils took care of business quickly and made sure that the result was in hand by halftime. Still, there were plenty of fireworks in the second half including Play No. 2 on our "12 Plays of Christmas" countdown.

The Play: Taylor Kelly hits Jaelen Strong on a 61-yard touchdown pass to give Arizona State a commanding 23-point lead.

Point Breakdown

3 Points: The play occurred in a Sun Devil victory

5 Points: The play was a Sun Devil touchdown

7 Points: The play went for 40 or more yards (Big Play Factor)

10 Points: The play led to the Territorial Cup victory or the Pac-12 South-clinching win against UCLA.

Point Total: 25

It feels like we saw this play 1,000 times this season. Taylor Kelly drops back, has nowhere to throw the football, but tosses it in the general direction of Jaelen Strong to let him go up and get it.

While 1,000 times is an exaggeration, we did see a variation of that play 72 times as Arizona State's quarterback and top receiver connected on average more than five times per game this season.

Taylor Kelly and Jaelen Strong developed a wildly successful chemistry this season, and Strong's ability to make circus catches and win 50-50 balls helped vault him up the NCAA's leading receivers list. For the JUCO transfer, highlight reel catches became the norm and 100 yards receiving was just another day at the office.

Kelly and Strong had plenty of memorable moments including Play No. 6 on our "12 Plays of Christmas" list when the redshirt junior found his top receiving threat in the end zone just before halftime at UCLA. That play helped clinch the Pac-12 South crown, and today's play helped solidify the blowout result from the Territorial Cup.

Arizona State was never really threatened against Arizona, but in the second half, the Wildcats did pull the game within two possessions. The Sun Devils' lead was down to 16 points and midway through the third quarter, Arizona State needed a lift.

And when Arizona State needs a lift, it usually turns to the same man.

Taylor Kelly let Jaelen Strong "go up and get it" to seal the deal on Todd Graham's second straight Territorial Cup win.

With first and 10 on their own 39-yard line, the Sun Devils aligned with four wide receivers and had two split on either side of Kelly. The quarterback stood in shotgun formation with running back D.J. Foster flanking him to his right.

At the snap of the ball, Kelly executed a zone-read play-action fake with Foster, who moved from right to left across the formation. Kelly never let his eyes get caught up in the fake, as his head stayed downfield the entire time.

Almost immediately, Kelly identified single coverage on Strong from the Wildcats' cornerback. Just 15 yards from the line of scrimmage, Strong already established a step on his man and Kelly decided to lob the ball up.

The pass sailed perfectly threw the air and hit Strong in stride at the Wildcats' 25-yard line. The Arizona corner was two full strides behind Strong at this point and had no chance of catching him en route to the end zone. Strong gathered the ball and sprinted for the middle of the end zone where the 61-yard touchdown culminated in a raucous celebration from the Sun Devil crowd.

Strong made tremendous plays all season, but few were as beautiful as the streak route that sent Wildcat fans flocking for the exits in the third quarter. The Territorial Cup was well in hand, and Arizona State had Kelly and Strong to thank.

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