UA football: Unexpected Cats stirred this cup

2011-11-21T00:00:00Z 2014-09-15T10:23:17Z UA football: Unexpected Cats stirred this cupRyan Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
November 21, 2011 12:00 am  • 

TEMPE - The Arizona Wildcats' 31-27 upset win over Arizona State was about 30 minutes old when Kyle Quinn, still dressed in his game uniform, sprinted out of the visitors locker room and back toward the Sun Devil Stadium turf.

Halfway there, the UA's starting center found what he was looking for. An Arizona equipment manager handed the Territorial Cup trophy to Quinn, who then sprinted all the way back to a group of happy teammates.

"I ran in yelling, 'We got it! We got it!' " Quinn said. "Everyone just came up and started grabbing it. They wanted to touch it. That cup is very special. … It's just amazing to even have that thing in our possession for the next year."

Arizona's come-from-behind victory over the rival Sun Devils was special, not only for the way the Wildcats (3-8, 2-7 Pac-12) won but for who stepped up with the game on the line. The following four players were unlikely heroes in the biggest upset in recent UA history:

The chosen one

Backup quarterback Bryson Beirne spent most of his senior season on the sidelines, "coaching" starter Nick Foles in between possessions.

When a back injury sent Foles to the sideline with 5 minutes remaining in Saturday's game, Beirne got his chance.

The fifth-year senior completed the only pass he attempted against Arizona State, a screen that Juron Criner turned into a 23-yard, go-ahead touchdown play. Beirne finished the game with a pass efficiency rating of 623.20. In parts of five games this season, he has completed 7 of 12 passes for 94 yards and a score.

Coach Tim Kish called the Honolulu product "a phenomenal young man" who, along with a handful of other players, stepped up with the game on the line. Beirne will receive his first career start this week against Louisiana-Lafayette if Foles cannot play.

As the clock ran down, and then out, many of the Wildcats stormed the field to celebrate. A few tried to plant the UA's flag at midfield, but were rebuffed by angry Sun Devils.

Beirne stayed on the sideline and - in the middle of chaos - took a knee and said a prayer.

"Five years, and I get a chance to beat ASU in my senior year in Phoenix on their field. You can't ask for something like that," he said. "It's just placed upon you, and I'm grateful it was."

The comeback kid

Perhaps no UA player took more criticism through the first two months of the season than Shaquille Richardson. Forced into action following an injury to starter Jonathan Mc-Knight, the sophomore cornerback was abused by Northern Arizona and Oklahoma State receivers in the season's first two games. Just when Richardson started to find a groove, he was suspended for starting a sideline-clearing brawl against UCLA on Oct. 20. Richardson suffered a high-ankle sprain in practice while he was suspended, and had been slowed since.

Saturday, however, he was stellar - playing against a pass-happy ASU offense, Richardson finished with five tackles, broke up two passes and turned a first-quarter interception into a 41-yard return.

Richardson's best moment came on the game's final play: Brock Osweiler fired a pass into the end zone looking for receiver Mike Willie. Richardson, playing behind him and right on the goal line, made a leaping deflection at the final gun. After months of stress, Richardson could celebrate.

"If they go to me a lot," he said after the game, "that's their bad."

The banshee

Bilal Muhammad thought for a second when asked how much playing time he received before Saturday's rivalry game.

"If you don't count special teams," he said, "none."

Saturday, the senior linebacker was a difference-maker. Playing the "rover" position in the UA's new 3-4 front, Muhammad finished with three tackles - as many stops as he's had in his first 22 college games combined - and two tackles-for-loss.

Defensive back Jourdon Grandon said Muhammad "was causing havoc."

"He was like a banshee," he said.

Muhammad, who transferred to the UA from El Camino Community College in Torrance, Calif., a year ago was mobbed by his teammates after the game. As he walked to the team bus, the little-used linebacker couldn't stop smiling.

There was a lesson, he said, in all the waiting.

"The opportunity might not present itself at first, but I was always told that sacrifice pays off at the end," he said. "So I got recognized eventually."

The future star

Ka'Deem Carey was stellar in his first-ever rivalry game, posting 139 yards from scrimmage and one touchdown, an 11-yard catch-and-run from Foles in the first quarter. The Canyon del Oro High School product finished with a game-high 92 rushing yards on 13 carries and caught four balls for 47 yards. His longest run, a 33-yard dash down the middle of the field with Arizona driving in the second quarter, might have been the best of his career.

Kish called Carey, a true freshman, "a special running back."

"He's got some of the intangibles that are hard to find," Kish said. "He has a tremendous knack for finding a hole. He's got a great change of speed and can change direction on a dime. … I can't be more proud of the performance he had."

Carey, who chose the Wildcats over Arizona State on letter-of-intent day, said after the game that he picked the right school. Sitting alone in the locker room, Carey grabbed the Territorial Cup and celebrated.

"I kissed it and everything," he said. "Me and that cup will get (to be) real good friends."

Up next

• What: Louisiana-Lafayette at Arizona

• When: 2 p.m., Saturday

• TV: None

• Radio: 1290-AM, 107.5-FM, 990-AM (Sp.)

AP top 25

With first-place votes in parentheses, records through Nov. 19 and previous ranking.

1. LSU (60) 11-0 1

2. Alabama 10-1 3

3. Arkansas 10-1 6

4. Stanford 10-1 8

5. Oklahoma St. 10-1 2

6. Virginia Tech 10-1 9

7. Boise St. 9-1 10

8. Houston 11-0 11

9. Oregon 9-2 4

10. USC 9-2 18

11. Michigan St. 9-2 12

12. Oklahoma 8-2 5

13. Georgia 9-2 13

14. South Carolina 9-2 14

15. Wisconsin 9-2 15

16. Kansas St. 9-2 16

17. Michigan 9-2 20

18. Clemson 9-2 7

19. TCU 9-2 19

20. Penn St. 9-2 21

21. Baylor 7-3 25

22. Nebraska 8-3 17

22. Notre Dame 8-3 24

24. Virginia 8-3 NR

25. Georgia Tech 8-3 NR

Others receiving votes: West Virginia 37, Tulsa 34, Auburn 28, Southern Miss. 12, Rutgers 6, Arkansas St. 4, Iowa St. 3, Cincinnati 1.

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