In years past, the Arizona State Sun Devils have been defined by their late-season collapses and overall lack of discipline on the field. Since Todd Graham has taken over, ASU has put the undisciplined label aside and could be ready to shed the late-season collapse stigma as well. Trailing for almost the entire day with things just not clicking, Arizona State put their mental toughness on full display Saturday in a 20-19 rally over the Utah Utes in Salt Lake City.
As most of the Pac 12 will attest, Salt Lake is a tough place to play. The Oregon State Beavers needed overtime to escape with a win while the UCLA Bruins forced six interceptions and still barely kept the Utes at bay. Then the Stanford Cardinal found their rally come up short a few weeks back in a stunning upset that will likely keep the Cardinal from competing for a BCS National Championship. For three quarters, ASU was getting the full Utah treatment with a stifling defensive effort from the Utes’ defense leading the way to a 19-7 lead for Utah heading into the fourth quarter.
Historically, this would have been where ASU imploded, folding up camp and heading back to Tempe with their tails between their legs. But this Sun Devil squad circled the wagons and rallied led by Marion Grice and a tough 84-yard effort in the final 15 minutes. Taylor Kelly finished the day with three total touchdowns with two coming in the fourth quarter, capped off by a 14-yard touchdown pass to Richard Smith for the go-ahead score with 2:37 to play.
From there, the ASU defense took it home with interceptions of Travis Wilson on back-to-back drives to seal the win for the Sun Devils. With the victory, ASU maintains their one-game lead on the pack in the Pac 12 South and showed a grit that has been sorely lacking from this program. With a mentally tough and confident team escaping a tough environment with a win, does Todd Graham have the squad to finish strong and secure a place in the Pac 12 title game?