Eds. Note: This is the first-half instant recap for the Territorial Cup. Stay tuned to House of Sparky for our second half and full game recap with quotes.
Looking to jump out to an early lead in hostile territory, Arizona State won the toss and elected to send out its offense on the field first. However, the Sun Devils' plan of getting out to a quick start against its arch-rival did not come to fruition, as Arizona's Scooby Wright chased down Taylor Kelly from behind and stripped him of the ball. Anthony Lopez scooped up the ball and rumbled into the end zone for a lightning-quick touchdown to put Arizona up 7-0.
In its second drive, the ASU offense found a rhythm, and Deantre Lewis' 23-yard carry set the Sun Devils up in Arizona territory. But the Sun Devil drive stalled as Kelly overthrew Jaelen Strong on a slant route that would've converted a 3rd and 5, and Arizona State punted the ball back to the Wildcats, bringing out the Sun Devil defense and Arizona offense for the first time.
While the Arizona defense had already forced a scoop-and-score, the Sun Devils defense made an impressive statement of its own on its first drive. Salamo Fiso and Antonio Longino snuffed out a pair of Arizona runs, and then cornerback Armond Perry came off the edge on third down and sacked Anu Solomon for a loss of 15 yards back to the Arizona 3-yard line. Arizona punted, sending the Sun Devil offense back on the field.
Strong, who missed last week's win over Washington State, made a huge third-down catch to move the chains and set up the Sun Devils near the Wildcat goal-line. Arizona State ran the ball on four straight plays, and was stopped short by the Wildcats on all four, turning the ball over on downs and wasting an opportunity to tie the game.
With the Arizona State offense sputtering, the Sun Devil defense took it upon itself to make plays. And that's what they did, as Demetrious Cherry picked up an Solomon fumbled snap and stretched two yards over the goal line for a Sun Devil touchdown, tying the game at 7 points apiece.
The Sun Devil defense that had played with discipline through the majority of the first quarter made a costly sloppy play on the Wildcats' next drive. Solomon threw to a well-covered Samajie Grant, and Arizona State's Damarious Randall tried to undercut it and intercept the ball. He whiffed though, and Grant sprinted 69 yards through a flurry of Sun Devil defenders en route to a touchdown that put Arizona back in front 14-7.
Arizona State's next drive stalled as Kelly overthrew Strong on what would've been a walk-in touchdown, but Kelly at least partially compensated for it by sending a beautiful pooch punt down to the Arizona 2-yard line. James Johnson's huge sack of Solomon sent the Wildcats back eight yards, and the Arizona defense held to force an Arizona punt, as the Wildcats led 14-7 at the end of the first quarter.
Strong's 50-yard diving reception set Arizona State up in the red zone, and Kelly's quarterback keeper gave the Sun Devils a first down at the Arizona 3-yard line, and Strong's one-handed grab in the back of the end zone on second down tied the game at 14-14.
True freshman Tashon Smallwood made his first indent on the Arizona State-Arizona rivalry on Arizona's next drive, stuffing Nick Wilson on a 3rd and 2 to force another Wildcat punt. Working from its own 10-yard line, Arizona State benefited from a pass interference call on Arizona, but another overthrow from Kelly wasted an open opportunity and Arizona State was forced to punt again. Matt Haack had his punt blocked though, and it only travelled seven yards past the line of scrimmage.
The Sun Devil defense thought it had bailed its anemic offense out again as Lloyd Carrington's shoelace tackle forced a 4th and 1. But Arizona's Wilson took an inside handoff on fourth down, bounced it to the outside and ran untouched 21 yards for a Wildcat touchdown.
Kelly took a sack on third down to seemingly end Arizona State's next drive, but Arizona's DaVonte' Neal muffed Haack's punt and long snapper Mitchell Fraboni recovered at the Wildcat 12-yard line. Three plays later, Kelly found Richard out of the backfield for a walk-in 7-yard score that tied the game at 21-21 with under 30 seconds to play. Arizona got the ball back with 17 seconds left, and took a knee to send the game to halftime.