If Arizona State's resiliency had been questioned this season, it won't be after Saturday. The Sun Devils did what they couldn't against Stanford, making all the necessary plays in the fourth quarter to cap off 20-19 comeback victory over the Utes in Utah.
Taylor Kelly connected with Richard Smith on a game-winning, 14-yard touchdown pass with 2:37 remaining in the fourth quarter to erase what once was a 12-point deficit. And it never would have happened without an an inspired performance by Arizona State's defense.
With Chris Young flying all over the field and Will Sutton outworking the Utah offensive linemen, the Sun Devil defense produced more stops than anyone could reasonably ask for. After scoring on two of their first three drives out of the half, the Utes were shutout for the remainder of the game. The defense put the final stamp on their defining performance with back-to-back interceptions from Robert Nelson and Sutton to seal it.
Utah finished 5-for-18 on third down, averaging 3.7 yards per play. Fighting a wave of pass rushers, Travis Wilson turned in a scatter-shot performance, completing only six of his 21 passes for 121 yards two touchdowns and the aforementioned interceptions. The Sun Devils were equally effective corralling the run as Utah averaged 2.7 yards on their 46 attempts.
Both Young (14) and Sutton (nine) finished their days with new career-highs in tackles. But they certainly didn't do it alone. Davon Coleman (2.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks) and Gannon Conway (1.5 TFL and one sack) were constant disruptions and Salamo Fiso turned in another quietly well-rounded line with six tackles and one sack.
Yet it was as much about a battle of two dominant defenses as it was a struggle between two over-matched offensive lines.
Kelly was sacked six times, resulting in negative nine rushing yards despite his two touchdowns on the ground. With the read-option failing and his pocket continually collapsing, Kelly's happy feet began to show. Even with a few ill-advised throws, Kelly managed to avoid a turnover, finishing his day 19-for-31 for 144 yards and the game-winning touchdown.
The 14-yard Kelly-to-Smith clincher was setup by a super-human fourth quarter from Marion Grice. Grice racked up 84 yards in the final frame to finish the day with 136 yards on 20 carries. His highlight of the game came on a smooth, 38-yard scamper on ASU's final drive in which he showcased his unparalleled vision in the open field.
Despite the scare, Arizona State (7-2) remains in the driver's seat for the program's first Pac-12 South title. And while every win is important, this one has the feeling of a victory that shapes the rest of a team's season attitude-wise.
So, can we talk about what just happened? A very un-Arizona State victory from Arizona State, right?