Top Play No. 3: Marion Grice runs for a 52-yard touchdown to get the Sun Devil offense going in the Territorial Cup game.
2 Points: Momentum changing play
3 Points: Play happened in a Sun Devil victory
5 Points: Play resulted in a Sun Devil touchdown
7 Points: Big Play (30+ Yards)
10 Points: Play led to the Territorial Cup victory
Total: 27 Points
Every season, the goals for a typical Pac-12 football team start out something like this:
1) Win the National Championship
2) Win the Rose Bowl
3) Win the Rivalry Game
For the vast majority of Pac-12 teams, accomplishing the first two goals become nearly impossible after the first four or five weeks of the season. At that point, teams shift gears and try to win as many of the remaining games on their schedule as possible. Even if the first two goals are unattainable, the focus of a program never changes as each team desperately scrambles to prepare and win the late season rivalry game.
The Pac-12 conference is home to wonderfully spirited rivalry matchups that include Cal-Stanford, USC-UCLA, and Oregon-Oregon State, but few come close to matching the legendary intensity of the Territorial Cup.
Arizona State and the University of Arizona have been playing football in the desert for over 100 years, and the two sides battle for the Territorial Cup trophy, the oldest trophy contested by rivals in the NCAA. But those are the obvious facts.
Nearly every college football fanatic in the state of Arizona could explain parts of the storied history between the two schools, as most children grow up in "Sun Devil" or "Wildcat" households. If they don't, chances are they'll be sporting "House Divided" shirts throughout their youth.
When recruits consider both Arizona State and the University of Arizona, they run the risk of alienating an entire fan base when they elect to go with one program over the other. The fans remember the decisions a recruit makes when the recruit is just 18 years old, and cannot wait to see their players trample over the traitors in the Territorial Cup games.
Another reason that makes this rivalry so special is that the favored team has such a difficult time overcoming their opponent and hoisting that coveted trophy. Coming into this year's affair, the past three Territorial Cup games had been considered at least mild upsets and the road team won all three games.
So when Arizona State traveled to Tuscon on November 23rd this year sitting a game behind the Wildcats in the standings, Sun Devil fans carried more than their fare share of hope.
The Wildcats came into the matchup boasting a record of 7-4 and one of the nation's most finely tuned offensive schemes, whereas the Sun Devils brought a 6-5 mark and a combination of solid offense and talented defense down south.
When the dust cleared in "The Duel in the Desert," the Sun Devils emerged with a remarkable comeback victory that left the Wildcats shocked and speechless. In all honesty, House of Sparky could have made our "12 Plays of Christmas" series entirely from the highlights the Sun Devils produced in Tuscon, but we figured a balanced approach was more befitting of this Arizona State squad.
Play No. 3 in our countdown series comes from one of the most consistent offensive forces the Sun Devil team benefitted from this season and his name is Marion Grice.
The JUCO transfer added a potent mix of power and speed to the Arizona State backfield and his drive and determination were rewarded in the Territorial Cup game.
Grice rushed 18 times for 156 yards and three touchdowns, and not one of his 18 runs were as impressive as his first touchdown of the game. With the Sun Devils trailing 6-0 and struggling to find offensive rhythm, Grice delivered the best rush an Arizona State player had all season.
When the Sun Devils took possession on their own 25-yard line with 11:55 remaining in the second quarter, they needed a scoring drive to keep up with a Wildcat attack that couldn't be held down for much longer.
D.J. Foster rushed twice for nine yards, Taylor Kelly found two different receivers to pick up an additional 19, and the Sun Devils appeared to be on the move.
However, after picking up a first down on the Arizona 47-yard line, the Wildcat pressure got to Kelly who was sacked for a five-yard loss.
Kelly did have success passing earlier on the drive, so second and 15 likely signified another passing situation. Instead, offensive coordinator Mike Norvell turned over the reigns to Marion Grice.
On their own 48-yard line, the Sun Devils aligned with two receivers spread left, another split right, an H-back in front of Kelly, and Grice setting up a yard behind the quarterback on his left side.
At the snap of the ball, Kelly cocked his arm back as if to pass, and then gave to the ball to Grice on a perfectly designed draw play that saw the Arizona State linemen gaining traction downfield as soon as Grice received the handoff.
Grice immediately darted toward the right hash mark, and in a move that would make NFL backs proud, the running back cut on one step to make a Wildcat linebacker miss at the 50-yard line.
The Sun Devil back decided to work back against the grain and took advantage of two over-pursuing Wildcats around the 43-yard line. Grice then shifted his vision toward the first down marker at the 38 and used a block from Kevin Ozier to spring him free.
Instead of keeping his track toward the left sideline, Grice made another stellar cut to beat a member of the Wildcat secondary and turned the rest of the play into a footrace.
When Marion Grice gets going, he simply won't be stopped. No. 1 scampered all the way into the end zone for the Sun Devil touchdown that helped give Arizona State a 7-6 lead in the second quarter.
Grice's run propelled the Sun Devil offense and helped lift Arizona State to victory in Tuscon. Though Grice's run isn't "Play No. 1" on our list, the Sun Devil back surely made his presence felt with a run Sun Devil fans will remember for a very long time.
For a complete breakdown of our "12 Plays of Christmas" countdown, click here