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September 15, 2013

Wild endgame as Sun Devils emerge victorious



The aftermath of the Arizona State's 32-20 win over Wisconsin seemed just as confused as the game's final two minutes.

As ASU players streamed onto the field at Sun Devil Stadium immediately following the game's final play, baffled Wisconsin players could do nothing but watch the celebration ensue.

Before that perplexing sequence in the last eighteen seconds though, questionable calls were made on both sides of the football by ASU.

With Wisconsin closing the gap to a mere two points after an 11-play, 75-yard drive in the fourth quarter that resulted in a touchdown but a missed two-point conversion, ASU had the ball starting on its 21-yard line with 3:47 left in the game.

Up 32-30, ASU had a clear goal of running out the clock, though offensive coordinator Mike Norvell made the choice to mix the passing and running game on the series in an effort to get the final first down needed to seal a win.

After a completion and run by senior running back Marion Grice for a first down, ASU was penalized for a false start, but then gained yardage back with a first down on sophomore running back D.J. Foster's 21-yard catch to the ASU 47-yard line.

After another run by Grice, junior quarterback Taylor Kelly threw an incomplete pass to senior tight end Chris Coyle, stopping the clock and forcing a third down and long.

"They put up a lot of yards there, right there in that situation, what I'm saying, they only have one timeout left, we could have ran that thing down to 35 seconds and that's what we should have done," head coach Todd Graham said. "On the same hand, we aren't going to play not to lose and I'm not going to call the play for Coach Norvell. He's one of the best I've ever been around and if Chris Coyle catches that -- how about the completion to D.J.(Foster) on the play before that? Now if coach Graham was calling the plays they be booing because I'd have been in the two tight ends I (I formation) and been running the ball and running the clock. Look, the clock right now, we gotta make first downs, so yeah I didn't like that play, didn't work. You see what I'm saying? We dropped the ball right there, that was not, we talked about that right after, we can't manage the clock like that. We do have a good defense and we need to play percentages a little bit better there, so if we caught the ball, then, that's, he never drops the ball, so we thought we had a safe deal and I thought the pass completion to D.J. (Foster) was huge right there and once we caught that, I thought we would run the clock out. And yeah so, yeah, that was not…that's my decision, and I knew exactly what we were calling and if I had to do it over again I would have run the ball."

After a no-gain keeper by Kelly and the ensuing punt, Wisconsin got the ball at the its 17-yard line with 1:37 left in the game.

Sophomore quarterback Joel Stave threw an incomplete pass, but there was a holding call on the play, which ASU promptly denied, setting up a second and 10. Had it accepted the penalty, Wisconsin would have been on its 8-yard line facing first and 19.

"It was a holding penalty, they repeat the first down, and I didn't want to take it," Graham said. "I wanted to get second and long and play right there, and hold them on that series. We could have backed them up and went first and fifteen, I think it's half the distance, it's first and fifteen or second and ten and I want second and 10."

After a completion by Stave that brought up a third and 4, senior wide receiver Jeff Duckworth caught a pass for a 51-yard gain to the ASU 26-yard line.

The play was reviewed, as Duckworth had a foot right at the boundary. The evidence was inconclusive, but the ruling on the field stood.

With a new set of downs on the ASU 26-yard line, Stave threw an incompletion and then a completion to Jacob Pedersen for a 7-yard gain, setting up third and three on the ASU 19-yard line.

"As a defense, we were just worried about field position, we were just trying to not let them kick an easy field goal against us, that would be a shame to lose the game like that," senior ASU cornerback Osahon Irabor said. "We were thinking about attacking, getting second and long, maybe coming on third down, getting them out of their element, what they wanted to do, we were just thinking bring pressure as a defense."

After another Wisconsin completion good for six yards and a first down to the ASU 13-yard line, the clock stopped with 0:18 seconds left.

"The whole time there as they're moving down that field, and they made a heck of a play, their quarterback gets out of there, he made two or three plays, I thought we had him," Graham said. "Their tailbacks were the real deal, they were a really good football team."

In the following play, which will be discussed heavily in the next few days, Stave took the snap and ran to his left in order to set up the ball in the middle of the field, but ran into the back of senior offensive lineman Ryan Groy and then appeared to intentionally take a knee.

In multiple TV replays, Stave's knee is seemingly shown down on the ground, the officials called it as such on field and a clear whistle was blown.

However, at least one ASU player said members of the defense believed the ball was a fumble and reacted as such.

"I guess the quarterback tried to take a knee and I guess he tried to put the ball down, it looked like a fumble or something,' senior safety Alden Darby said. "I don't know. We hopped on the ball because at practice, anything on the ground we go get it. We get takeaways. We see ball on the ground so we just went in and jumped on it."

Senior linebacker Anthony Jones jumped on the ball with 0:12 seconds left on the clock and stayed there for eight seconds until he finally got up after seemingly multiple, but slow attempts by the referee to bring Jones to his feet.

During Jones's jump on the ball, Stave spoke to the officials as the clock continued to run.

No sense of urgency was displayed by the referees on the play, and with :04 left on the quickly disappearing clock after Jones got up, the referee reset the ball, but a quick and hurried attempt to spike it by Wisconsin came just as time expired, setting off a wild ASU celebration.

"It was a shame the way it went down," Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen said. "I have never seen [such an ending]. Nope."

ASU recognized the rarity of the play as well.

"I've never seen anything like that in college football definitely never played in a game like that, so luck was on our side. I'll take that,' Irabor said.

In the post-game press conference, Graham tried describing the ending sequence.

"Yeah, I mean the play before, the quarterback put the ball on the ground while he was still standing up, he hadn't been tackled so that should have been a turnover," Graham said. "That should have been the end of the game. That's what I was telling him. You know what I was talking about? He ran over to spike the ball, we never tackled him. He put the ball on the ground. You can't do that. I mean it's fumble. Make sense? So I thought that was a fumble as well, but obviously that's tough to plan for all those things."


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