ASU kicked off its PAC 12 schedule with a 51-41 comeback win over the California Golden Bears in Tempe on Saturday. It’s not often that post game accolades go to the defensive unit of the Sun Devils, but it was the defense, and not the offense, that played a key role in the comeback.
Coming into the game, both teams were riding waves of momentum. The Golden Bears were fresh off a thrilling upset victory over then-No. 11 ranked Texas Longhorns, while the Sun Devils entered the game undefeated at 3-0.
It was no surprise that both teams put up huge offensive numbers in the game. They’re mirror images of each other as Cal was ranked No. 2 in the nation in passing offense, and 10th in scoring offense. Similarly, the Sun Devils came in averaging 48.0 points per game. Each had been effective throwing the ball, and each had surrendered big yardage on defense.
Coach Todd Graham’s squad was facing another high powered offense led by an experienced quarterback. At the helm for the Golden Bears was SR Quarterback Davis Webb.
Cal lived up to expectations in the first half by torching the Arizona State defense on the ground, and through the air.
Webb had a solid statistical effort going 32-of-56 for 478 yards, throwing five touchdowns and two interceptions.
It seemed to take ASU quarterback Mammy Wilkins a whole half to get going. After the slow start, he completed 16 of 20 for 228 yards in the second half.
With the score tied 34-34, the Sun Devils’ defense stepped up. Webb had thrown only two interceptions in the first three games, but he was picked off twice in the final minutes of the second half by the Devils. Then, with 48 seconds left to play, D.J. Calhoun scored on a botched onside kick attempt by Cal to essentially put the game away.
When asked if ASU did anything differently in the second half, Golden Bears’ head coach Sonny Dykes said, “No, they just kept playing. They did a great job in the first half scheming us up and they kept doing it. They did a good job taking away the run a little bit in the second half.”
Todd Graham had plenty of post-game praise for his young group of Sun Devils. The sometimes fiery coach was noticeably pleased. “What a game. That was a heck of a football game,” he said. “Really proud of our guys. Just proud of the heart that they showed and figured out a way to get it done. This team has a lot of heart.”
Photo Gallery: all photos by Kevin C Cox/ Core360 Sports