Top 25: Arizona, Rich Rodriguez in Pac-12 title game
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?' " said Rodriguez, the former Michigan coach. "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 a 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.
Grant caught a ball down the sideline, made a couple of jukes and cut back for a 69-yard touchdown.
Jalen Strong, as he usually does, answered spectacularly: laying out for a 50-yard reception, nonchalantly snaring a 3-yard touchdown catch with his left hand to tie it at 14.
Wilson put Arizona back up on a 21-yard run on fourth-and-short.
A muffed punt by Devonte Neal set up a 7-yard touchdown pass from Kelly to Demario Richard that pulled the Sun Devils even at halftime.
"It was eerily quiet at halftime," Rodriguez said. "They weren't really saying much, but at about the 9-minute mark of halftime, they were ready to get back onto the field."
Arizona seemed to take control in the third quarter, gaining a little breathing room when Wilson scored on 1-yard dive and a 72-yard burst up the middle to put the Wildcats up 35-21.
Bercovici gave the Sun Devils a lift, then a letdown after replacing Kelly late in the third quarter.
He hit tight end Kody Kohl on a 2-yard TD pass early in the fourth, but threw a ball into coverage that Grandon picked off, setting up Arizona with a short field. Two plays later, Solomon rolled right and found Grant on a 20-yard touchdown pass, pushing the lead back to two touchdowns.
Bercovici hit De'Marieya Nelson for a 9-yard touchdown and Arizona State got the ball back with less than 3 minutes left, but turned it over on downs when Bercovici threw an incompletion.
"It's the ultimate bitter taste in our mouths and it's going to last the rest of our lives," Bercovici said.
Stanford 31, (at) No. 9 UCLA 10: Kevin Hogan passed for 234 yards and two touchdowns, and Stanford crushed UCLA's hopes for the Pac-12 South title and a College Football Playoff spot. 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, No. 8 CFP) 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 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.
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.
Hogan completed his first 12 passes, scrambled for key yards and showed poise in the pocket, particularly in avoiding a sack on 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.
(At) No. 17 Missouri 21, Arkansas 14: Marcus Murphy scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 12-yard run with 4:38 remaining and Markus Golden recovered a fumble to send the Tigers to the SEC championship game for the second straight season. Missouri (10-2, 7-1, No. 17 CFP) tied it at 14 early in the fourth quarter with a 98-yard drive capped by Jimmie Hunt's 4-yard TD reception and a reverse pass by receiver Bud Sasser to Darius White for the 2-point conversion. Arkansas (6-6, 2-6) was driving for the tie when Kentrell Brothers stripped Alex Collins and Golden recovered with 2:13 to go at the Missouri 35 to thwart Arkansas' bid to tie it.
The Razorbacks had won two straight, both shutouts against ranked teams.
A sellout crowd of 71,168 stuck around for the fourth quarter surge by the Tigers that kept Georgia out of the Southeastern Conference title game on Dec. 7 in Atlanta. The Bulldogs (9-2, 6-2) would have won the East by virtue of a blowout victory against Missouri earlier in the season.
Western Kentucky 67, (at) No. 19 Marshall 66 (OT): Brandon Doughty threw a Conference USA-record eight touchdown passes, the last in overtime to Jared Dangerfield followed by a 2-point conversion pass to Willie McNeal. Marshall's Rakeem Cato had seven touchdown passes but threw four interceptions as the teams combined for 1,446 yards of offense.
Doughty broke the previous conference record of six TD passes. He was 34 of 50 for 491 yards.
Western Kentucky (7-5, 4-4) foiled Marshall's bid for the fourth perfect season in school history. The teams tied the Bowl Subdivision record for the most combined points scored in a game involving a ranked team, set when West Virginia beat Baylor 70-63 in 2012. It was the highest-scoring game in Conference USA history, eclipsing East Carolina's 65-59 win over Marshall in double overtime in 2012.
Marshall (11-1, 7-1) saw its 13-game home winning streak end and likely lost its chance to earn a place in the New Year's bowls. The College Football Playoff committee will pick one team from outside the five major conferences for one guaranteed spot. Marshall was 24th in the CFP this week, one place behind Boise State, which plays Utah State on Saturday.
Marshall already has qualified for next week's conference championship and will meet the winner of Saturday's game between Rice and Louisiana Tech.
(At) Air Force 27, No. 21 Colorado State 24: Will Conant made a 39-yard field goal as time expired after backup quarterback Nate Romine completed a long pass, and Air Force ended Colorado State's nine-game winning streak. Fullbacks Shayne Davern and D.J. Johnson scored for Air Force (9-3, 5-3), which has won six straight over the Rams (10-2, 6-2) at Falcon Stadium.
Romine stepped in for starter Kale Pearson, who was a late scratch with a tender right ankle. Romine ran for a score and threw for 135 yards, including a 26-yard strike to Garrett Brown to get the Falcons in field-goal range.
This after Colorado State went for it on fourth-and-short in Air Force territory, only to have Dee Hart stopped short. It gave Air Force good field position and 38 seconds left.