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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Redemption

Janice+Biancavilla%2F+Daily+Wildcat%0AThe+Wildcats+defeat+Arizona+State+University+31-27+on+Nov.+19+at+Sun+Devil+Stadium.
Janice Biancavilla
Janice Biancavilla/ Daily Wildcat The Wildcats defeat Arizona State University 31-27 on Nov. 19 at Sun Devil Stadium.

TEMPE — As far as cathartic moments go, there might not have been a greater one for the Arizona football team than when the clock hit zero on Saturday night.

After cornerback Shaquille Richardson broke up a pass before stomping over ASU wide receiver Mike Willie to secure the UA’s victory, Wildcat center Kyle Quinn grabbed the Arizona flag and paraded it around Sun Devil Stadium before spiking it into the end zone turf, imitating what ASU quarterback Brock Osweiler did in Tucson with the Sun Devils’ pitchfork just 11 and a half months prior.

Success had not been a word in the Wildcats’ vocabulary this season, but after a 31-27 victory against the favored Sun Devils, it was the only one that could be used.

“I’m so proud of this football team,” said Arizona interim head coach Tim Kish, still soaking from his Gatorade bath. “We asked the team to play 60-minute game, and I don’t know if it gets any better than that.”

For Kish, that marathon effort that he’s come to expect out of his players was more evident on Saturday.

“These kids persevered, they stayed the course. They did everything we asked of them,” Kish said. “They prepared themselves as well as they have all year, and they should. It’s a rivalry game. It means a lot.”

For what was their final Duel in the Desert, the Arizona seniors rose to the challenge, perhaps no one as poignantly as Wildcat backup quarterback Bryson Beirne.

With the Wildcats down by three, driving into ASU territory, UA quarterback Nick Foles went down with a muscle injury to his torso and the Arizona coaching staff called upon Beirne to finish off the drive.

Two plays later, a dump off to Juron Criner turned into a 23-yard scoring play, Beirne’s second touchdown pass of his career. It was the game winner.

“It definitely means a lot,” Beirne said of the opportunity after the game. “Five years, and a chance to beat ASU senior year up in Phoenix on their field, you can’t ask for something like that. It’s just placed upon you, and I’m grateful it happened.”

Kish said the confidence that Beirne showed was just an example of the leadership role he has on the team.

“He has that composure all the time, you just don’t see it because he’s not out there on the field,” Kish said. “Bryson’s a phenomenal young man. He stepped up like many others did, and helped us win this football game tonight.”

Beirne gave credit where credit was due and said all he did was get the ball to Criner, who had to do the rest.

“He had to make that first guy miss, than that second guy miss, it was probably three or four or five guys that he missed and he just ran in there,” Beirne said. “I sprinted over there towards the goal line and I almost tackled him, I was so stoked that he did that.”

Criner’s play was almost a mirror image of the touchdown catch and run by Gino Crump to bring the Wildcats within three points. Down 27-17 with just more than 10 mintues to play in the game, a short screen from Foles to Crump led to a 33-yard score after the wide receiver slipped four Sun Devil tacklers.

And on the defensive side of the ball, the team showed a true character that hasn’t been very evident all year long.

“This is how you’re supposed to do it, this is how it’s done, and we did it,” said cornerback Shaquille Richardson, whose blocked pass prevented ASU from scoring on the last play of the game. “It feels great, I love the feeling.”

Overall, the Wildcats forced three turnovers — two interceptions and a forced fumble — deep in their own territory to halt an ASU offense that put up 548 total yards.

Arizona defensive back Jourdon Grandon, who intercepted Osweiler with a little over two minutes left, echoed Richardson’s statements.

“I feel like this just showed our team that if we want it, we can be really good,” Grandon said. “We came out here and just played our hearts out tonight. I couldn’t be more proud.”

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