Last night, I was witness to an excellent football game. The Arizona Wildcats and ASU Sun Devils traded blows back and forth, neither team willing to concede the Territorial Cup. As the game reached the fourth quarter, both offenses were beginning to execute more effectively, starting with the quarterback position.
Brock Osweiler, ASU: Osweiler had little command of his passing accuracy, but he utilized his legs to break down the Wildcats defense. While Arizona DE's Ricky Elmore and Brooks Reed were able to make his evening difficult, Osweiler's ability to move the chains by scrambling kept the game interesting throughout.
ASU began to look for shorter routes, including swing passes, to give Osweiler more space and spread the defense. It worked, to an extent. To their credit, the Arizona defense played very well last night, making Osweiler look like the backup quarterback that he is.
Nick Foles, UA: Foles got off to an equally rough start in the Territorial Cup, leading his team to seven consecutive punts to start the game. He was nearly unstoppable in the second half, dismantling the ASU secondary and working with talented receiver Juron Criner to build a 14-6 Wildcats lead in the third quarter.
Including the overtime periods, Foles threw four touchdown passes, making up for an ineffective rushing attack. Now, we will take a look at other significant contributors to the ASU victory over Arizona on Thursday evening in Tucson.
Vontaze Burfict, MLB, ASU: Burfict was everywhere, making tackles all over the field and severely hampering the ability of Arizona to establish a successful running game. It appeared as though Burfict was the defender who blocked Alex Zendejas' extra point attempt at the end of regulation. By playing calm and not making enemies of the referees, Burfict proved just how valuable he can be to a team.
Cameron Marshall, RB, ASU: Despite the overall numbers, Marshall played an important role in the victory over the Wildcats. It was the intangibles that did it - he had the look of a player who refused to lose. His legs kept churning in the overtime period, and his game-winning touchdown was the product of hard-nosed effort rather than incredible blocking or quick moves. Marshall is a tough back, and he has earned a spot in ASU lore.
Thomas Weber, K, ASU: Man, I'm so proud of Thomas Weber. Say what you will about the guy (and I have), but he played an incredible game against Arizona. Weber was 5/5 on field goal attempts and also made his only extra point attempt, the eventual game winner in double overtime.
His longest kick was 52 yards, and he also nailed a 48 yarder in overtime to keep the game going. After this performance, a lot of goodwill can be restored to his lengthy career as a Sun Devil. The 2007 Lou Groza award winner finished his ASU career on a very positive note.
Alex Zendejas, K, UA: I couldn't even tell you what happened to Alex Zendejas on Thursday. He was part of Mike Stoops' punting carousel, one of three players who lined up to kick the ball away to the Sun Devils. Zendejas shanked a punt in the second quarter, kicking it off the side of his foot and getting zero yardage on the kick. It was a humorous scenario that occurred right after ASU punter Trevor Hankins shanked a punt of his own, but the damage to Zendejas' psyche may have played a part in the game's final result.
Extra point attempts are blocked frequently; as a Sun Devil fan, I know this very well. But for it to happen twice, in crucial scenarios, is unacceptable. Blame the line, blame the snap, blame the hold. But an extra point is a chip shot, and all you need to do is aim high. Zendejas didn't do that, and the Wildcats fell to the Sun Devils because of it.
There you have it, folks. The Sun Devils pulled out an epic 30-29 victory in double overtime to take the Territorial Cup back to Tempe. Today we will find out if ASU will be granted a waiver of eligibility to play in a bowl game - after last night, I'd like to see the Sun Devils again in 2010.