Saturday marked the second year in a row in which the defense determined the winner of the Utah and Arizona State tilt, as stingy defense played by the Sun Devils spurred an Arizona State victory. But every victory is not without its stars, and it took a couple of special performances for Arizona State to pull out the win. Who shined brightest for Arizona State on Saturday? Here are our three game balls.
The true freshman running back, who doesn't even turn 18 years old until December, enjoyed his coming out party on Saturday night. Richard toted the ball 14 times and averaged over 8 yards a carry in rushing for 116 yards. Richard converted four first downs on the night for Arizona State, and his 32 yard run in the second quarter helped set the stage for Taylor Kelly's touchdown pass to Jaelen Strong. While only 17, Richard is turning heads in Tempe, and the 5-foot-10, 210 pound back projects to be a large part of the Sun Devil offense from here on out.
Strong continues to assert himself as a leading candidate for the Biletnikoff award, as the redshirt junior receiver put together another solid game as Arizona State's top option on offense. Strong, fresh off a performance at Washington where he caught a touchdown pass for the third straight game, added to his touchdown streak in the second quarter, as his 6-yard reception gave Arizona State a 13-3 lead. Strong piled up 77 yards on five catches, but each catch moved the chains for Arizona State. Strong's 8th touchdown of the season was the biggest blow the Sun Devils could levy on the Utah defense Saturday night.
When called upon in times of need, Zane Gonzalez is developing a clutch reputation. The sophomore kicker's leg was the catalyst to Arizona State's win, as he booted four field goals in the victory. Gonzalez knocked through two first quarter field goals to give Arizona State a 6-0 lead, but the Sun Devils called on him again late in the fourth. Arizona State's offense had sputtered in the second half but Kelly and company drove down in Utah territory and set Gonzalez up with a chance to tie the game. He converted, and sent the game to overtime, where his Utah counterpart Andy Phillips missed both of his field goal chances. With an opportunity to win the game following Phillips' misses, Gonzalez came through, kicking a 36-yard walk-off field goal to send the Sun Devils home victorious.