If the Rose Bowl wants big plays, Arizona should be headed to Pasadena.
Trung Canidate shattered Arizona's single-game rushing record with 288 yards in 18 carries, including touchdown runs of 80, 66 and 48 yards, as the seventh-ranked Wildcats held off Arizona State 50-42 Friday night to complete their best regular-season ever.
"I knew I had to run somebody over or put a move on," Canidate said. "I put some moves on and I got into a flow and went to the house. The o-line told me they would give me 14 inches of daylight. That's all I needed."
The four-hour shootout was the highest-scoring game ever in the intense interstate rivalry.
Arizona State's Ryan Kealy completed 33 of 56 passes for 511 yards, the third-most in Sun Devils' history. Four of his throws went for touchdowns, including two to Todd Heap.
Kealy threw a 17-yard td pass to Heap on fourth-and-10 with 5:55 to play to cut the lead to 43-35 and a 23-yard scoring pass to Lenzie Jackson with 1:52 remaining to cut the lead to 50-42.
| The Wildcats had trouble with Arizona State QB Ryan Kealy, but DaShon Polk did haul him down once. (AP) |
After Kealy's last TD pass, Arizona's Brad Brennan recovered ASU's onside kick attempt.
Arizona punted the ball away with less than a minute to play, then Kealy drove the Sun Devils from their 2to the Arizona 28, but Kelvin Hunter knocked down the final pass in the end zone to save the victory.
Arizona (11-1) must wait until next weekend to see if Pac-10 champion UCLA beats Miami and advances to the national championship game at the Fiesta Bowl. If that happens, the Pac-10 runner-up Wildcats would be a leading candidate for their first-ever Rose Bowl berth.
But under the new Bowl Championship Series format, the Rose Bowl does not have to pick a Pac-10 team and might opt for Notre Dame.
Scouts from the Rose, Sugar and Holiday bowls were among those watching the wild game.
Arizona won 11 games for the first time ever.
"We don't know where we are going," Wildcats' coach Dick Tomey said. "We know it's going to be someplace good. We would love to go to the Rose Bowl. "
"We have done everything we can do. I know we are as good as anybody."
Canidate, who has nine career touchdowns of 48 yards or more, broke the single-game record of 232 set by Jim Upchurch against UTEP in 1973.
Canidate's 80-yard run gave Arizona the lead for good 26-22 with 1:37 left in the first half. His 66-yard run put the Wildcats up 42-28 with 1:35 to play in the third quarter.
The Sun Devils (5-6), expected to be Pac-10 contenders when the season began, were eliminated from any bowl consideration. Arizona State coach Bruce Snyder praised his team's effort at the end of such a disappointing year.
"I think we literally responded every single time," he said, "even right there in the end, we were driving -- tremendous heart, tremendous courage."
Kealy's passing yards were third behind Paul Justin (534 yards against Washington State in 1989) and Jeff Van Raphorst (532 against Florida State in 1984). His performance came just two weeks after he underwent arthroscopic knee surgery.
"I think tonight I saw that he is going to take this team over," Snyder said of his sophomore quarterback. "Less than two weeks ago he had an operation, then he goes in and throws for 500 yards. It was a tremendous effort."
In his final home game, Chris McAlister blocked an Arizona State punt, his second of the year, and intercepted his fifth pass of the season. Marcus Bell had 21 tackles.
McAlister's blocked punt set up Ortege Jenkins' 13-yard touchdown run to give Arizona a 33-22 lead with 11:38 left in the first half. But Kealy brought the Sun Devils back in a hurry, completing three passes for 78 yards, the last one a 23-yarder to Heap that made it 33-28 with 9:23 left in the third quarter.
On Arizona state's next possession, Greg Payne intercepted Kealy's pass and returned it to the Sun Devils' 43. Jenkins threw a 42-yard bomb to Dennis Northcutt, who fell six inches shy of the goal line. The Wildcats couldn't punch it in, though, and had to settle for Mark McDonald's 21-yard field goal that made it 35-28 with 4:58 left in the third.
The Sun Devils' J.R. Redmond played "basically on one leg"> because of an injured ankle, Snyder said.
Arizona State lost its best defensive back, Courtney Jackson, in the second quarter with an injured ankle, moments after his interception set up a Sun Devils' score.
"I got injured on a cheap shot by (Jeremy) McDaniel," Jackson said. "As I was running, he jumped on my legs. He hit the back of my legs and it messed up my Achilles. He even jumped up and looked for flags, but the play was 30 yards downfield."
Just a little fodder for next year's big game.
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