TEMPE — Brandon Dawkins trotted onto the Sun Devil Stadium turf with 4 minutes remaining, his job as simple as it was daunting.
Step 1: Drive the Arizona Wildcats 94 yards for a touchdown.
Step 2: Nail the 2-point conversion, tying the game.
Step 3: Win in overtime.
Given the way the quarterback had played in the first extended action of his career, it seemed likely. Dawkins lasted two plays before the game — and, in a way, Arizona’s season — came crashing down. Kareem Orr’s 21-yard interception return for a touchdown with 3 minutes 33 seconds remaining secured a 52-37 Sun Devils win in the annual battle for the Territorial Cup. ASU (6-5) became bowl-eligible with the victory, while Arizona — the defending Pac-12 South champions — finish their regular season at 6-6.
It’s hard to pin much of Saturday's loss on Dawkins, who spent his redshirt freshman season as the Wildcats’ No. 3 quarterback. Anu Solomon didn’t play Saturday because of a concussion, and Jerrard Randall was lifted after one and a half inefficient quarters. Dawkins, who had been sick all week, fought through vomiting spells, made plays and nearly wrote his name into UA lore. He completed 16 of 30 passes for 305 yards and two touchdowns and ran 21 times for 78 yards and touchdown.
Dawkins was intercepted twice: once by Orr and again by Lloyd Carrington with 2 minutes 30 seconds left; Carrington returned his pick 37 yards for a score, too, giving the Devils their largest lead — 22 points — of the game. ASU gained 566 yards against an overmatched UA defense; the Sun Devils' defense forced three turnovers.
The Sun Devils' late defensive push obscured what had been an unexpected UA rally. Trey Griffey's 95-yard catch-and-run and Casey Skowron's ensuing PAT cut the Devils' lead to 31-23 heading to the fourth quarter. ASU led 31-10 at halftime.
ASU quarterback Mike Bercovici struggled after posting one of the best halves of his career. Bercovici threw for 231 yards and two scores and running back Kalen Ballage rushed for 98 yards in the first half. The Devils gained 400 first-half yards.
ASU receiver Devin Lucien caught a 58-yard pass and scored a 59-yard touchdown in the first quarter alone. Lucien caught nine passes for 190 yards and a score, and was named the Bob Moran Most Valuable Player.
The game was a defensive struggle until Bercovici found Lucien streaking down the field with 5 minutes remaining in the quarter. One play later, Richard cut through a half-dozen UA tacklers for the game's first score.
Arizona punted on its ensuing possession, and Bercovici found Lucien again. The deep pass on a fake end around — and ensuing PAT — made it 14-0.
Dawkins took over in the second quarter, and led the Wildcats to a field-goal-scoring drive. Dawkins completed 3 of 4 first-half passes for 48 yards. The Wildcats' lone touchdown came on a pick-six by cornerback DaVonte Neal in the second quarter.
ASU (6-5, 4-4) will finish its season next week at Cal, while the Wildcats (6-6, 3-6) are idle. The UA has qualified for a bowl game, though their destination and opponent won't be known for another eight days.