TUCSON -- Over time, you learn to expect the unexpected in rivalry games, but Thomas Weber's performance Thursday night may have taken unexpected to an entirely different level.
Senior linebacker Gerald Munns perhaps said it best: "He made some of the toughest kicks of his life tonight…it was [completely] awesome."
Weber had a perfect 5 for 5 performance including a 52-yard kick in the first half to make it a 3-0 game, and a 40-yarder to force double overtime in Arizona State's 30-29 win in the Territorial Cup Thursday night.
It all came at the conclusion of an otherwise underwhelming senior season that, prior to Thursday, saw Weber convert on just 12 of 19 field goal attempts.
"Thomas hasn't had the best year, but he certainly was at his best tonight, Sun Devil coach Dennis Erickson said. "He got his confidence back last week. He was knocking them straight through, too."
Confidence for Weber has been difficult to come by this season. After winning the Lou Groza award as a freshman in 2007 when he made 24 of 25 field goal attempts, Weber hit 19 of 25 on field goals as a sophomore before an injury plagued 2009 season limited him to an 8 of 13 showing.
A player who once looked to be a likely NFL Draft selection saw his college production steadily decline to the point where he was considered a liability by ASU fans after critical missed field goals against Wisconsin and USC, and even a missed PAT against Stanford.
But Weber's teammates never lost faith, and neither, it seemed, did his coach. Erickson put Weber on the field for a 52-yard attempt in a scoreless field position-oriented game on the road with 2:13 remaining in the first quarter.
Weber responded with easily his best attempt of the season, a ball that sailed through the middle of the uprights with at least 10 yards to spare. It tied for the second longest field goal of Weber's career and fourth longest in ASU history.
It was also a kick that set the tone for the rest of his night.
"We didn't get down on any of our players," Munns sad. "When Weber missed field goals we were all there slapping him on the ass and tell him what a good job he's done and you saw him tonight and how big he was."
Whether it was suiting up for his final game or the competitive emotions of a rivalry, Weber played with newfound poise and self-belief, attributes that have been hidden in the emotional scrum of a few heartbreak losses and missed opportunities that defined ASU's 2010 season.
"It was amazing for our team, Weber said. "For me to finally be accountable to them after the whole season most of the games I really didn't hold my end of the bargain. Just feels great to come out here to win and beat UofA in Tucson, there's not a better feeling than that."
Weber's epic performance included field goals of 52, 36, 38, 40 and 40 yards, and he also converted a point-after try in double overtime which ultimately proved to be the game winner. All told he had 16 of ASU's 30 points on the evening, and moved into second place all-time on the ASU career list in scoring.
Near the conclusion of halftime, a practice kick by Weber sailed over the netting behind the goal posts. UA fans passed the ball up the stands until someone eventually threw it entirely out of the stadium.
They may have gotten rid of one ball, but they couldn't escape Weber, and that was the difference for ASU in its Territorial Cup win Thursday.