It takes a lot for a football team that has a 2-9 record to put up 56 points and absolutely dominate its rival in the season finale.
All of the talk heading into the game was about how the Wildcats weren’t going to be able to exploit ASU’s true weakness: Its passing defense. Arizona threw the ball eight times on Friday, completing three of those.
But, Arizona was able to rush for 511 yards on Friday night, which is not only a new school record by 12 yards (499 vs. NAU in 2015 the previous high), but it was also the most Arizona State had ever given up (491 by Arizona in 1953). That’s right, Arizona is now responsible for the two best rushing performances ever against ASU.
Let’s add on to this. The Wildcats’ 10.6 average yard per rush is also the new ASU school record (10.5 yards per rush allowed to Hardin-Simmons in 1948).
“That was the worst performance we’ve had since I’ve been here and it was embarrassing,” ASU head coach Todd Graham said afterwards. “We let our university down, we let our program down, and that was difficult. We just didn’t show up at all.”
“To give up that many yards rushing is just absolutely ridiculous.”
Not only did they give up that many yards rushing, it was the big plays Arizona was able to put up on the ground. They had FIVE rushing plays that went for more than 50 yards on the night, plus a 64-yard pass completion.
“I thought we played atrocious,” Graham continued. “We weren’t prepared on defense. That starts at the top with me. It is way past just execution. Obviously it’s my responsibility, and that’s absolutely unacceptable.”
“It reminded us of some of the old days we had with Pat White, Steve Slaton, and Owen Schmitt,” Rich Rodriguez said of what he and running backs coach Calvin Magee thought of the performance. “The guys up front were doing a good job recognizing blitzes.”
“Samajie (Grant) was phenomenal,” Rodriguez continued. “Zach Green’s never run that far in his life* without passing out. And Brandon Dawkins was terrific. When you have a quarterback that can run like him, is a willing runner, it gives you a whole different dimension.”
*Green had a 56-yard run that was 33 yards longer than any rushing attempt he’d had in college
One thing that Arizona did that ASU was obviously not prepared for was huddle. Why did the Wildcats do this? Because of Graham’s reputation around the league of stealing signals.
“ASU be cheatin’,” Brandon Dawkins said after the game. ““That’s why we utilized the huddle.”
Subs from the sideline would bring the playcall into the huddle, thus negating any signal stealing that ASU might have relied on throughout the night.
Let’s also not overlook that a 2-9 team with one of the worst offenses in all of college football put up 56 points. Where does this stand as an all-time rank? Well, in checks in right around the 20th-best game in Arizona history, but in Territorial Cup Games, it’s the most ASU has given up since the Wildcats won 67-0 in 1946.
It’s still a 3-9 2016 season for Arizona, and I get all of that, but when your rival plays one of its worst games that it ever has against you, that feels pretty good.