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ASU hands Arizona historic defeat in Territorial Cup as losing streak extends to 12

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Is this the end for Kevin Sumlin?

NCAA Football: Arizona State at Arizona Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

If this was how the Kevin Sumlin era ends, at least it was a finish no one will forget.

The Arizona Wildcats were obliterated at home by rival ASU, giving up 14 points in the first minute and continuing downhill after that, falling 70-7 on Friday night at Arizona Stadium.

It was the 12th consecutive loss for the UA, extending a program record, and sixth in a row at home, breaking a tie for longest home skid. It was the fourth straight setback to ASU, which last happened in the 1970s.

The final margin was the largest for the Sun Devils in Territorial Cup history, with the 70 points the most by any team in the rivalry. Only Arizona’s 67-0 win in 1946 a bigger blowout.

ASU (0-2) used four Arizona turnovers and two turnover-on-downs to go up 42-0 after less than 25 minutes of game action, by far the biggest in a long list of big holes the Wildcats had started games in under Sumlin. The UA turned it over seven times, most since at least 1999, with ASU turning those into 35 points.

A horrible performance started off about as bad as possible for Arizona, as ASU’s DJ Taylor returned the opening kickoff 100 yards for a score. Gary Brightwell then fumbled on the Wildcats’ second offensive snap, with the Sun Devils recovering at the UA 4-yard line, and on the next play Chip Trayanum scored on a 4-yard run.

After only 56 seconds, Arizona trailed 14-0.

Arizona turned it over on its second drive—twice, actually—with Grant Gunnell getting intercepted by ASU’s Kyle Soelle one play after receiver Ma’jon Wright appeared to have been stripped on a catch over the middle. Officials overturned that play, only to see the Wildcats give it away one snap later.

ASU failed to capitalize on that takeaway, missing a 40-yard field goal attempt, but then Arizona turned the ball over on downs when Michael Wiley was stuffed for no gain on 4th and 1 at the UA 41. The Sun Devils turned that third consecutive start in Wildcat territory into a 20-yard TD run by quarterback Jayden Daniels to make it 21-0 with 2:21 left in the first.

The second quarter looked more promising for Arizona at first, as it drove into the ASU red zone and had 1st and goal from the 2 … only to have a bad exchange between Gunnell and Brightwell result in another fumble. ASU’s Michael Matus recovered it at the 4-yard line, and two plays later Rachaad White broke off a 93-yard TD run to make it 28-0 with 11:45 left before halftime.

A fourth turnover—and third fumble—on a strip sack of Gunnell set ASU up deep in UA territory again, with Daniels connecting on a 31-yard TD pass to Ricky Pearsall to make it 35-0 with 10:15 left in the first half.

That was followed by Arizona’s second failed fourth-down conversion on its own side of the field, with ASU turning that into a 4-yard TD run by Daniel Ngata to make it 42-0 with 5:25 left in the second.

Arizona finally got on the board on its seventh possession, which also included true freshman Will Plummer replacing Gunnel at QB. Plummer was 3 for 3 for 49 yards on the drive, paving the way for Wiley to score on a 20-yard run with 3:38 left.

Gunnell, who missed last week’s game against Colorado and all but the first play at UCLA because of a shoulder injury, was 12 of 17 for 78 yards with two turnovers. Plummer was 7 of 13 for 83 yards, eventually stepping aside for Rhett Rodriguez to get his first snaps since the 2019 home opener against NAU.

The UA actually outgained ASU 260-241 in the first half, despite being down 42-7, and did not punt until its first possession of the second half. The Wildcats only gained 90 yards after halftime.

ASU added two short TD runs by White in the third quarter, the second coming off a third lost fumble from Brightwell. The Sun Devils made it 63-7 on a 74-yard TD pass from Daniels to Curtis Hodges, then after Arizona’s sixth turnover Chinese-born running back Jackson He scored on a 1-yard run to hit 70 with 7:02 left.

Arizona’s 12-game skid is now the second-longest active losing streak in FBS, trailing only Kansas. The Jayhawks, who have lost 13 in a row, had their final game against Texas canceled due to a COVID-19 outbreak.

The Pac-12 plans to have all non-championship game participants meet in crossover games on Dec. 19. If Arizona has one of those it will be the last chance to avoid the first winless season in school history.