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U of A vs. ASU: Demario Richard finishes the job

The senior back won game MVP with his fourth straight 100-yard performance

NCAA Football: Arizona at Arizona State Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Before Saturday’s Territorial Cup, Arizona State Sun Devils senior running back Demario Richard penned a short love letter to the university he has called home for the last four years.

But if you asked Richard where that place would have been five years ago, you would have received an answer other than ASU.

“Being recruited, I never thought I would come here, to be honest with you,” Richard said. “Manny kept telling me, ‘man, we changing it over here. Come here.’”

And he did.

As his career comes to a close, the senior running back is in the midst of the best stretch of his career, carrying the offense for nearly a month. Richard entered Saturday with three consecutive games of 100 or more rushing yards and at least a touchdown.

But those games weren’t against the Arizona Wildcats. In his final game against Arizona, Richard ran the ball 22 times for 165 yards and two touchdowns, breaking down the Wildcats in the second half and earning Bob Moran Player of the Game honors in the process.

But it didn’t start as a great day for him.

ASU’s offense got off to a slow start, punting on its first two drives of the game and failing to get the ground game going. Richard and fellow senior back Kalen Ballage combined for 28 yards on 12 carries, forcing redshirt junior quarterback Manny Wilkins to carry the load.

Entering halftime down 10 points, Richard and the Sun Devils never panicked, knowing what was to come as soon as they got comfortable.

“We just have to get our groove,” Richard said. “Once we have our groove, it’s over.”

Richard has long said he gets stronger as the game goes on, and he proved that once again in the second half.

Coming out of the locker room, ASU seized momentum with Arizona sophomore quarterback Khalil Tate sidelined and Richard pounding the ball. On just six carries, the burly back gained 60 yards and found the end zone twice, helping give ASU a lead it wouldn’t give up.

The Sun Devils leaned on their bellcow even more as the game clock ticked towards its inevitable conclusion, letting Richard bowl through defenders in order to evaporate the clock and leave with a win.

Arizona had a chance to cut into the lead in the red zone with a few minutes left, but the ASU defense stiffened, keeping the Wildcats out and giving its offense the ball with 97 yards of field and 2:05 left to burn.

That’s winning time for Richard.

Like he did to seal the win over Colorado a few weeks ago, Richard opened the drive with a bang, sprinting 63 yards down the field to send Sun Devil Stadium into a frenzy.

Richard ran the ball twice more to put ASU in position for third and short, with a first down ending the game. With nothing left to do but ice the game, there was only one person coach Todd Graham and the Sun Devils were going to.

“On that last play I told him I said, ‘Look. You got to go get that first down,’” Graham said. “There was no doubt he was going to go get it. I was so proud of him.”

Five yards. Game over.

Richard seemed to savor the victory after the game and later tweeted three simple words: “Solidify Your Legacy.”

With Saturday’s second half to win his second Territorial Cup in his final game at Sun Devil Stadium, Demario Richard did just that.