Jacob Manu ended up getting a scholarship offer because he kept making big plays every time Arizona coaches came to watch the teammates it was recruiting. The Wildcats now have the Territorial Cup back because of the undersized, under-recruited linebacker.
Manu’s two huge defensive plays in the final four minutes, forcing a fumble and causing an interception in Arizona’s 38-35 win over ASU on Friday afternoon.
The Wildcats won the Territorial Cup for the first time since 2016, finishing the 2022 season with a 5-7 record after winning just once in their previous 25 games.
An announced crowd of 49,865 saw a game with six lead changes and witness Arizona force five takeaways, most since the 2019 opener at Hawaii, with the game-sealing interception by Isaiah Taylor coming with 1:16 to go. Taylor dove for a ball that fluttered in the air after Manu hit the arm of ASU quarterback Trenton Bourguet, who threw for 376 yards and three touchdowns but also turned it over three times.
His second turnover came with 3:17 left when Manu came off the edge and sacked Bourguet, with Jalen Harris forcing the fumble and Tia Savea scooping up the loose ball. Arizona had a chance to ice the game with under two minutes left but, one 4th and 1 from the ASU 27 Michael Wiley was stopped in the backfield for a turnover on downs.
Wiley, otherwise, was stellar. He ran for 214 yards and three TDs on just 12 carries, adding 51 yards on three catches. Arizona ran for 280 yards, most since September 2019, and five TDs, with Jonah Coleman and DJ Williams also scoring on the ground.
Williams’ 6-yard run with 8:53 left was the game-winner.
Down 14-10 at the half, Arizona put together its most impressive drive to that point to retake the lead on a bulldozing 9-yard TD run by Coleman with 12:43 left in the third quarter. That was the Wildcats’ first run play to running back in five snaps inside the ASU 10 and came after Coleman gained 24 on the previous play.
ASU went back in front 21-17 on a 9-yard TD catch by Giovanni Sanders, which came on one of several nifty plays by Bourguet. Earlier in the drive he converted on 4th and 2 by faking out Hunter Echols on a rollout and scramble.
The Wildcats went up 24-21 just three plays later, the first a 42-yard catch by Dorian Singer and then runs of 21 and 12 by Wiley.
Arizona then caught a break that turned the game in its favor, at least briefly. ASU freshman Tevin White tried to extend for extra yardage as he landed on a UA defender but ended up fumbling, with Jaxen Turner recovering the fumble. Two plays later, Wiley broke off a 72-yard run to make it a 10-point lead with four minutes left in the 3rd.
A pair of big catches by ASU tight end Jaylin Conyers, including a 27-yarder down to the 1, set up Xazavian Valladay’s 1-yard score to cut Arizona’s lead to 31-28 with a second remaining in the third.
Arizona went 3-and-out on its next drive, with Wiley not touching the ball, and Conyers put the Sun Devils up 35-31 with 11:04 left on a 4-yard TD catch on 3rd and goal.
DJ Williams scored from 6 yards out to put the Wildcats back in front with 8:53 remaining, then Arizona’s defense came up huge down the spot with the final two takeaways. For the game the Wildcat D allowed 537 yards, the fifth time it had yielded at least 500 yards in a game.
ASU gained 35 yards on the game’s first offensive play but ended up having to punt after Manu sacked Bourguet on 3rd down. Arizona then only needed four plays to take a 7-0 lead, with nearly all the damage done by Wiley.
He took a direct snap on Arizona’s first play for 22 yards, then finished the drive with a 51-yard rushing score for his third TD in the last three Territorial Cup games.
The Sun Devils again got into UA territory on its second drive, but Bourguet’s deep throw was tipped by Treydan Stukes and intercepted by Turner. It was Arizona’s first interception since the home opener against Mississippi State on Sept. 10.
The Wildcats went 3-and-out after the pick, but then ASU made two mistakes on the ensuing punt. It ran into Kyle Ostendorp on one end, while return man Javen Jacobs muffed it on the other, and DJ Warnell recovered in Sun Devils territory.
Arizona had 1st and goal but stalled, settling for a 29-yard Tyler Loop field goal and a 10-0 lead early in the second quarter.
ASU got on the board with 10:35 left in the first half on a 4-yard Valladay TD run. The Sun Devils went 75 yards in 10 plays, only facing one third down.
The Wildcats again got inside the ASU 10 on its next drive, but de Laura’s pass to Tetairoa McMillan was tipped on the way to getting intercepted in the end zone by ASU’s Ro Torrence. ASU converted that takeaway into a go-ahead score when Bourguet connected with Elijah Badger for a 4-yard TD and a 14-10 lead with 58 seconds to go in the half.