It's not a play that will show up on top ten lists or big hit reels for years to come, but Chris Young's fourth quarter sack of UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley in the red zone might have been Arizona State's most important play of the season.
The Play: Chris Young sacks Brett Hundley for a loss of 13 yards on 3rd down and 6 from the Arizona State 7-yard line.
2 Points: The play changed the momentum of the game
3 Points: The play occurred in a Sun Devil victory
8 Points: The play occurred in the fourth quarter of a Sun Devil victory
10 Points: The play led to the Territorial Cup victory or the Pac-12 South clinching win against UCLA
Point Total: 23
After an outstanding first half that put the Sun Devils in prime position to clinch the Pac-12 South, things began to unravel for Arizona State. The UCLA Bruins charged hard out of the locker room and scored on four consecutive positions to narrow what was once a 22-point Sun Devil lead.
Everything was not as it seemed for Arizona State as the first half dominance failed to carry over into the latter half of the game. UCLA seemingly connected on every offensive play and its defense held a vaunted Sun Devil attack to just three points in the second half.
The Sun Devils were beginning to realize that the game would come down to their defense's ability to make a stand, even though that appeared most unlikely midway through the fourth quarter.
Arizona State once again punted the ball away to the Bruins with 9:15 left in the final frame and UCLA began a drive at its own 17-yard line with a shocking chance to take the lead. For a moment it looked as if Arizona State would force a three-and-out, as the Sun Devils closed in on Bruins' quarterback Brett Hundley behind the line of scrimmage on third and long. But alas, Hundley escaped, and his 13-yard rush kept UCLA's fleeting chance at victory alive.
Three first downs later, the Bruins had another first down at the Arizona State 11-yard line and all the momentum in the world on their side of the field. On first down, running back Paul Perkins carried and lunged forward for five yards. On second down from the 6-yard line, Sun Devil tackle Davon Coleman wrapped Hundley up in the backfield on a designed quarterback run for a loss of a yard.
Finally, third down was upon us and UCLA was staring an obvious passing situation dead in the face. The Bruins lined up with four wide receivers split out and a running back standing next to Hundley in shotgun formation. At the snap of the ball, all three receivers on the left ran forward and started to cut their routes inside toward the middle of the field.
Hundley locked in on his left side, but couldn't find an open window as Arizona State executed perfect man coverage. The redshirt sophomore was forced to scramble to his right and try to keep the play alive with his feet. But as Hundley began to run, Chris Young began to pursue.
The Sun Devil linebacker started the play about three yards in front of the line of scrimmage, and he came blitzing through the line as soon as Hundley snapped the ball. Young shrugged off the block of the running back just as Hundley started to move right, and from there it was all but over.
Even Hundley's outstanding footwork and uncanny ability to make defenders miss couldn't stop Young from tracking him down. Young dove for Hundley's ankles and the quarterback fell to the grass at the 20-yard line.
The 13-yard loss was incredibly significant, as the Bruins now had a much longer field goal to attempt than they would have if their third down play had gone for no gain. As Ka'imi Fairbairn came on to try the 37-yard field goal, UCLA still had a chance to cut further into the deficit. However, the Bruins' field goal kicker booted his attempt wide right, and Arizona State managed to preserve its five-point lead.
Young's sack proved to be the deciding play of the drive, and created the ultimate shift that helped turn the tide back in favor of the Sun Devils. The 13-yard loss wasn't the last time Hundley heard from Young either, as the Arizona State linebacker made sure to get his money's worth in Pasadena.
On the Bruins' final drive of the game, Young dropped Hundley for a 7-yard loss on the first play of the series that gave UCLA too much field to overcome in their quest for victory. Young's heroics saved the game for Arizona State, and helped deliver a highly desired Christmas gift known as the Pac-12 South title back to Tempe.