Round of 32
Region 1: Territorial Cup
No. 3 Keelan Johnson's Forced Fumble vs. No. 6 Kevin Ayers Blocked Punt
The Case for "Keelan Johnson's Forced Fumble": In terms of timing, this Keelan Johnson's forced fumble might be Arizona State's greatest defensive play in the 21st century. The Sun Devils desperately needed a turnover with the clock in the final nine minutes and the Wildcats threatening to build their lead to two touchdown just inside the redzone. And no sooner than ESPN's shoddy play-by-play man said that Arizona State needs "to make a play and take the ball away," that's exactly what Johnson did.
Even factoring in Matt Scott's sheer stupidity, Johnson's strip tackle in itself was a thing of beauty. Johnson engaged Scott while the quarterback was leaping in the air but still had the piece of mind to keep him upright in order to go for the strip. And just before Scott's knee was set to hit the ground, Johnson yanked with all his weight and forced the ball loose.
The rest, well, is history. The momentum was firmly in the Sun Devils corner thanks to Johnson's turnover and they never relinquished it, scoring three unanswered touchdowns before the Wildcats could put up a garbage time score. Although most will remember Marion Grice being the MVP of this game, he's not in the position to do what he did if it wasn't for Johnson's heroics. -Cody Ulm
The Case for "Kevin Ayers' Blocked Punt": If football is a game of momentum, then consider special teams a giant pendulum. Neither offense nor defense can match special teams play in terms of excitement, opportunity, and sensational play. Without Kevin Ayers' special teams heroics, who knows if the Sun Devils go on to claim the Territorial Cup.
Ayers' blocked punt in the fourth quarter officially broke the spirits and minds of the Arizona Wildcats and gave the Sun Devils the momentum for the rest of the game. When Arizona had to punt in the first place, the players looked dejected and hopeless. After Ayers soared in off the left edge to get his mitt on the football, the Wildcats were downright lifeless.
The Sun Devils took possession of the football on the Wildcat eight-yard line after the punt. One play later, victory was practically sealed. Cameron Marshall stormed into the end zone to give Arizona State a lead it would never relinquish. Special teams moments are an integral part of Territorial Cup history, but Ayers' is among the best this series has ever seen. -Kerry Crowley