TUCSON, Ariz. - Eno Benjamin ran for 168 yards and two touchdowns, helping Arizona State grind out a 24-14 victory over rival Arizona on Saturday night.
The Sun Devils (7-5, 4-5 Pac-12) started a chilly night in the desert slow before turning to their pounding ground game in the second half.
The Sun Devils ran the ball 20 of 21 plays on a pair of third-quarter scoring drives capped by Benjamin TD runs, turning a halftime deficit to a 21-7 lead.
The Wildcats (4-8, 2-7) were hurt by miscues and missed opportunities to end a second straight season with a loss to their biggest rival.
Arizona’s Khalil Tate returned as the starter for the first time three games and threw three interceptions -- two on miscommunications with receivers and another on a drop. Tate threw for 228 yards and threw two TDs to Jemarye Joiner, who had seven catches for 140 yards.Arizona State won last year’s Territorial Cup game in an epic comeback, rallying from a 19-point deficit to beat Arizona 41-40.
The win clinched the Sun Devils’ bowl eligibility in their first season under coach Herm Edwards and denied the Wildcats a postseason bid in their first under Kevin Sumlin.
This year’s game, the 93rd in the series, had no postseason implications but plenty of vitriol, starting with Arizona’s players using their cleats to scuff up the Sun Devils logo at midfield.The game was a defensive struggle at the start.
Arizona finally found an offensive rhythm midway through the second quarter when Tate found Joiner on a 48-yard TD after a busted coverage by the Sun Devils.Arizona State’s Christian Zendejas kicked his second field goal just before halftime after Frank Darby dropped what would have been a 40-yard touchdown in the end zone.
Once the second half started, the Sun Devils started pounding the ball down the field. The Sun Devils ran 11 straight times for 75 yards on their opening drive, capped by Benjamin’s 6-yard run to give Arizona State the lead.
Arizona State got its third interception in the third quarter when a pass by Tate went through the hands of running back Bam Smith. Benjamin capped another run-heavy drive with a 1-yard TD run and the 2-point conversion put the Sun Devils up 21-7.
Arizona’s defense, one of the nation’s worst, was good in the first half. Once the Sun Devils started running in the second half, the Wildcats had no answer.