No. 12 Arizona takes Pac-12 South
TUCSON, Ariz. — Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez didn’t want the score of the UCLA-Stanford game to be displayed inside Arizona Stadium, nor did he want word to leak down to the sideline.
The focus had to be on beating rival Arizona State in the Territorial Cup. If that led to the Pac-12 South title, even better.
It worked out perfectly on both counts for the Wildcats.
Nick Wilson ran for 178 yards and three touchdowns and No. 12 Arizona held off No. 13 Arizona State on Friday to claim the Pac-12 South title.
“Right after the game when I was walking out to shake Coach (Todd) Graham’s hand, I think either my wife or my son said: ‘Did you know UCLA lost?’” Rodriguez said. “That made me bounce a little more in the air.”
Arizona (10-2, 7-2 Pac-12, CFP No. 11) needed to beat its biggest rival and have Stanford knock off No. 9 UCLA to win the Pac-12 South.
The Cardinal took care of the first part by rolling over the Bruins. The Wildcats handled their end with a stream of big plays and a final defensive stand.
Anu Solomon was a little slow after an ankle injury last week, but threw for 208 yards and a pair of touchdowns to Samajie Grant.
Wilson was again explosive, bursting off for a 72-yard touchdown run in the second half after running for 218 yards last week.
Arizona’s defense had a touchdown on the game’s third play, a goal-line stand and forced a turnover on downs after Arizona State started its final drive near midfield.
The victory combined with Stanford’s win earned the Wildcats a rematch with No. 3 Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship game on Dec. 5 at Levi’s Stadium in the Bay Area. Arizona beat the Ducks 31-24 in Eugene on Oct. 2.
“This is what you live for,” said Arizona safety Jourdan Grandon, who had a key interception late.
The Sun Devils (9-3, 6-3, CFP No. 13) had trouble getting out of their own way.
Their offense had a turnover that led to a score on its first drive, another to set up Arizona with a short field for a touchdown and couldn’t punch it in with four tries inside Arizona’s 3.
ASU’s defense was hit with two long scoring plays and wasn’t able to consistently stop the Wildcats.
Mike Bercovici provided a spark after replacing Taylor Kelly at quarterback, but a final drive stalled at Arizona’s 40, dashing the Sun Devils’ hopes of a second straight Pac-12 South title.
“I hate to come in here and say we beat ourselves, but that’s really what we did,” Graham said.
The latest Duel in the Desert for the Territorial Cup was arguably the most anticipated in the rivalry’s 88-game history.
The usual bragging rights were there, of course. A shot at the Pac-12 South for both teams added to it.
The game lived up to the hype, too, the big plays coming right out of the gate.
Arizona scored 44 seconds in on Anthony Lopez’s 25-yard fumble recovery after Scooby Wright sacked and stripped Kelly.
The Sun Devils tied it on a defensive touchdown of their own when Demetrius Cherry rumbled in for a 2-yard score after Solomon bobbled and snap and couldn’t cover it.
Two of the nation’s best offenses, two defensive touchdowns to start — of course.
More big plays followed, on offense instead.
Stanford 31, No. 9 UCLA 10
At Pasadena, Calif., Kevin Hogan passed for 234 yards and two touchdowns, and Stanford crushed No. 9 UCLA’s hopes for the Pac-12 South title and a College Football Playoff spot with a victory.
Devon Cajuste and Michael Rector caught scoring passes for the Cardinal (7-5, 5-4 Pac-12) as the two-time defending Pac-12 champions salvaged from satisfaction from a down season by trouncing the Bruins (9-3, 6-3) for the seventh consecutive time.
With a dynamite 16-for-19 performance by Hogan and two rushing TDs from Remound Wright, Stanford snatched the South title away from UCLA, which needed a victory to advance to the conference title game. Instead, the Bruins flopped in another big game and Stanford handed the division crown to Arizona.
“We had very good preparation,” Hogan said. “We knew what looks they were going to be in, and I got great protection. We had a lot of fun.”
Brett Hundley passed for 146 yards in likely his final home game for the Bruins, losing a matchup with Hogan for the fourth time in three years.
After an up-and-down season, an inspired Hogan made sure the Cardinal didn’t miss top receiver Ty Montgomery, who sat out with a shoulder injury. Hogan completed his first 12 passes, scrambled for key yards and showed poise in the pocket, particularly in avoiding a sack before uncorking a 37-yard TD throw to Cajuste 41 seconds before halftime to cap a 92-yard drive.
Just six days after a blowout win over rival Southern California, UCLA retained none of that momentum or passion in its third home loss of the season. The loss ended the Bruins’ five-game winning streak, which had given them an outside shot at the four-team playoff after a slow start to their season.
After joining UCLA’s seniors for a pregame ceremony, Hundley said farewell to the Rose Bowl with a tentative, ineffectual effort, getting sacked four times while the Bruins were shut out for the final 41 minutes.
Backup Jerry Neuheisel finished the game after Hundley left with UCLA on the Stanford goal line midway through the fourth quarter.
Coach Jim Mora’s defense also rarely slowed down the Cardinal’s deliberate offense, which outgained UCLA 436-262 and had the ball for nearly 38 minutes.