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ASU Football: Zane Gonzalez's game-winning field goal lifts Sun Devils to first place in Pac-12 South

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It took overtime, but a 36-yard field goal sent the Sun Devils home with a 19-16 victory over Utah.

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

When Zane Gonzalez took the field in overtime, the weight of the Pac-12 sat on his shoulders.

Every other game had finished, and only No. 14 Arizona State and No. 17 Utah remained as one-loss teams in the Pac-12 South. Utah missed its shot in the extra time, and Gonzalez's kick would send the Sun Devils to first place in the division.

The 36-yard attempt went up.

"I was just worried about the snap, I don't worry about him," Graham said of his sophomore kicker. "He's got a personality that gives you a lot of confidence. He's the best I've been around."

And when it came down between the yellow poles, the Sun Devils (7-1, 5-1 Pac-12) were all alone atop the Pac-12 South standings, winners of a 19-16 battle in front of 53,745.

"There's no substitute for experience, and there's no substitute for winning close football games," Graham said. "You can't be a champion without them."

Gonzalez hit the game-winner - by his recollection, his first since his junior year of high school - but it followed a missed 50-yard try in the second quarter, snapping a streak of seven consecutive successful kicks. He wanted the shot at redemption.

"I told (quarterback Taylor Kelly) early on, give me another chance," Gonzalez said.

And so he did. Kelly and the offense started from their own 26-yard line down 16-13 with 8:41 left in the game. When Kelly connected with redshirt junior Gary Chambers on a 31-yard pass to get to the 16-yard line, Gonzalez got his opportunity. He booted a 30-yard field goal to tie the game, where the score would stay until overtime.

Utah (6-2, 3-2 Pac-12) got the ball first in overtime, and when nearly automatic Utah kicker Andy Phillips missed wide left from 35 yards out, the Sun Devils knew they just needed to get it close for Gonzalez.

"He's the best kicker in the country," Kelly said. "He believes that, we believe that, he proved it tonight. That's a lot of pressure on a kicker."

Before Gonzalez took the field, senior safety Damarious Randall went up to his kicker, and told him he was going to win the game.

"I just said he's the best kicker up in the nation, and he just do what he do," Randall said.

The kick improved the Sun Devils to 22-0 under coach Todd Graham when they took the lead into halftime. But it wasn't that simple. Arizona State missed opportunities early, including a first-down opportunity from the Utah 2-yard line in the first quarter on which it was unable to capitalize, taking three points.

The Sun Devils settled for a field goal four times in the game, improving Gonzalez to 14-of-17 on the season.

asu football zane gonzalez
Ralph Freso/Getty Images

It was far from Arizona State's prettiest win of the season. The Sun Devils were 2-of-14 converting on third down, allowed 184 yards rushing, and the 19-point output was the fewest a Graham-coached Arizona State team has scored in a regular season game.

Next week Arizona State takes on a Notre Dame team, which with its 7-1 record, poses the biggest challenge to the Sun Devils yet. As a nonconference game, the result will not affect the the Sun Devils' hopes at a Pac-12 Championship, though it could keep their dreams of the Collefe Football Playoff alive.

But that excites Graham more than it intimidates him.

"Ultimately our goal is Pac-12 Champions, but are we excited about this week? Oh heck yeah, we are," Graham said. "That's one that our guys look to, they look forward to playing in, just like the fans look forward to seeing those type of games."