Round of 32
Region 1: Territorial Cup
No. 4 "Marion Grice
"Marion Grice's 52-Yard Touchdown Run" vs. No. 5 "Robert Nelson's 66-Yard Interception Return"
The case for Marion Grice: Yes, all the excitement of the Territorial Cup took place in the game's final 15 minutes. However, the Sun Devils may have never reached a point where they could contend without the superb play of Grice. For Arizona State to keep things close in the early going, they needed a hero, and that man turned out to be Marion Grice.
For much of the game, especially the first half, the Sun Devil offense sputtered. But who was there to pick it up? Marion Grice. Early in the second quarter, Grice delivered the play that his team absolutely needed to have. With Arizona State trailing 6-0, Grice took a hand off and scampered 52 yards to pay dirt. Grice's trademark cuts, unparalleled vision, and extra gear of speed were all on display in one of the most impressive touchdowns of the season.
While Robert Nelson certainly weaved his way around, he did so against an offense that didn't seem to pursue him with much authority. As for Grice, he cut right through the heart of the Wildcat defense, and his touchdown kept Arizona State in the game until the Sun Devils decided to follow Grice's lead and kick it into their own second gear.
The case for Robert Nelson: Plain and simple, Robert Nelson's interception locked up Arizona State's signature win. Sure, you might say that there's a good chance they win anyways if the ball hits the ground since it was fourth and six. But a plain old turnover on downs wasn't good enough for Nelson and nor should it be for anyone else in a rivalry game of this magnitude.
Nelson's awareness and lightning-quick reaction allowed him to return a tipped ball 66 yards to set up Michael Eubank's one-yard dagger of a touchdown. More than anything, fans have to appreciate the fight Nelson showed. Instead of just playing it safe and kneeling after the pick, Nelson went for the throat, breaking at least three tackles before he was double-teamed to the ground. And Nelson's boldness was rewarded with the ultimate snapshot of a dumbfounded Arizona crowd (skip to 00:36 seconds in the video below to soak it in for yourself). Did I mention this all occurred in his first career start?
In the end, I think we can all agree that Nelson's interception return was when Sun Devil nation collectively came to the realization that we were actually going to pull this one out. And for that, he deserves to move on to the next round.