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ASU Football: Devin Lucien plays major role in first, only Territorial Cup

The former UCLA transfer was one of the stars of the game for ASU, leading the receiving attack in his only opportunity to win the Territorial Cup.

Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

As the sea of grey bodies poured onto the field after the conclusion of the Territorial Cup, there was one player hanging back. Watching, taking the spectacle in, absorbing it all. As a mob of players gathered around the Cup, jumping and shouting in celebration of its return to Tempe, Devin Lucien stayed a few feet behind.

After a couple of minutes, he stepped forward and touched his hand to the trophy that his performacne had helped win. A player who hadn't been embedded into Sun Devil culture until recently played his final regular season game at Sun Devil Stadium as if he had been a Sun Devil all along.

After spending a summer in the desert heat, catching balls from Mike Bercovici while trying to adjust to his new school, team and life, Lucien credited his successful transition from UCLA to Arizona State to the other seniors on the team, a transition that Todd Graham almost didn't let him make.

Following a performance in which he hauled in nine balls for 190 yards and a touchdown in the win over Arizona, it's safe to say that transition was successful.

"He'd probably tell you if he was honest, it was pretty tough. I'll be real honest with you, it was something I had to be sold on," Graham said. "It's hard in that short period of time to understand how we do things. How we work, how we do things, the discipline, the structure, the rigor. Not only on the field but academically and everything that we do."

Lucien came to Tempe thanks to the blessing of UCLA head coach Jim Mora, allowing him to not just transfer within the conference but to one of the Bruins' competitors for the Pac-12 South. ASU was without its top two receivers from the previous season as Jaelen Strong had turned pro and Cameron Smith suffered a knee injury that would rob him of his 2015 campaign.

Lucien was without a place to play out his graduate eligibility. He had known Mike Bercovici from playing prep ball in Southern California, and Bercovici convinced him to come out to Tempe with his last year of college.

"Me and Berc worked all offseason on deep balls and just having that connection so we could have a game like we had today," Lucien said. "I remember vividly when we were in the bubble and I ran a post route and he missed me by an inch. We just kept going and going and today you see us connect on one. It's just little stuff like that when you take it back five months, you see all the hard work you do really comes out towards the end of the season."

Lucien's year as a Sun Devil is coming to a close, and while his season at ASU didn't result in a serious run towards the College Football Playoff, he's won over the fans and teammates in Tempe.

"He has been great, what a great kid. He has really exceeded what i thought that we would be able to do in such a short time," coach Graham said. "I'm really proud of him. I'm really proud of Berc. Berc had a lot to do with that. He told me he'd make sure it'd be done right and he did what he said he'd do."

He may not be playing in a major bowl game to finish out his college career, but one thing Lucien did experience was a Territorial Cup victory. Looking back on the months of work in the shadows so that he could enjoy success in the light, Lucien again referenced the group of ASU seniors.

"The adjustment wasn't as hard as most people would think just because of the senior group we had. They just took me under their wings as soon as I got here," Lucien said. "Lloyd (Carrington), Berc, I was at Berc's house every day during the summer. To have a game like today my hat just goes off to everybody else who put me that position to do what i did. I'm really at a loss for words."

Lucien came to Tempe known for catching touchdowns as a Bruin, and had to work to assert himself as a contributing member of the team before he would be known for anything but what he did at UCLA. As his season comes to a close, Lucien's done that and more.

On his touchdown catch, he beat the Arizona defender deep and Bercovici found him in stride for a 59-yard score. As he entered the end zone and peered up at the student section that booed the name of the back of his jersey before they cheered for it, Lucien put up the signature Sun Devil fork.

The player who came to ASU uncertain of his ability to adjust had completed his transition. No longer did he look like an outsider. Holding up that fork Saturday, Lucien looked right where he belonged.