Arizona football: Late fumble a turning point

UA quarterback Matt Scott fumbles after he leaped into the arms of ASU safety Keelan Johnson, who stripped him of the ball. The Sun Devils recovered. The turnover was a key factor in helping Arizona State overtake the Wildcats in the fourth quarter.


Standing in a near-empty Arizona Stadium after midnight, Todd Graham looked elated, but exhausted, after his Sun Devils defeated the equally high-octane Arizona Wildcats, 41-34, in Friday's late-night Territorial Cup.

"It's like an anxiety attack for four hours," he said.

Just think how Matt Scott felt.

The UA quarterback completed only 19 of 39 passes for 230 yards, threw three interceptions and fumbled once.

"His decisions were OK, for the most part," UA coach Rich Rodriguez said. "There were one or two, a few we'd like to have back. We just weren't sharp enough."

Here's how the Sun Devils shut down Scott:

• They made what Graham called "the play of the game." With UA leading by seven and marching to the ASU 18 with 7:15 left, Scott rushed left.

He leaped into the arms of ASU safety Keelan Johnson, who grabbed the ball and spun it out of Scott's arms.

"I knew he wasn't ready for it," Johnson said. "I was just trying to get the ball back for the offense."

Johnson was surprised by the risky leap.

"I thought he was going to try to go out of bounds or hit the ground or do something like that to just try to protect the ball, since they had the lead," Johnson said. "He just didn't play smart with the football."

ASU teammate Brandon Magee smiled.

"Oh well," said Magee, who finished with 17 tackles. "I'm happy he did that."

• They bumped. ASU played bump-and-run coverage on almost every down, jamming the Wildcats' wide receivers at the line of scrimmage.

Graham said his defensive backs told him they could guard the UA man-to-man all night.

Robert Nelson defended Austin Hill on almost every play, holding him to five catches for 70 yards and intercepting Scott with 3:17 to go.

"Proud of Robert," Graham said.

"I told him we were going to take our best guy and put them on their best guy."

• They pressured. ASU entered the game first in the nation with 4.27 sacks per game and second with 8.91 tackles for loss per game.

The Sun Devils recorded only one sack, but finished with eight tackles for loss.

"There were some passes we didn't execute well today that we normally would, but you got to give them credit, too," Rodriguez said. "They did a good job covering us and getting some pressure at times."

Graham said ASU "definitely established a personality" on defense.

"Attack," he said.

• They capitalized. The Sun Devils turned Scott's four turnovers into 28 points.

"We kept battling," Magee said. "People kept making plays. Got a big turnover, another turnover, and then what? We won the game.

"It happens just like that."

UA running back Daniel Jenkins sympathized with Scott.

"I would tell him not to hang his head at all," Jenkins said.

"You win some, you lose some, but at the end of the day, he's a helluva quarterback."