Late TD pass lifts No. 13 Arizona State over Arizona

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) -- Arizona State wanted to go to the Rose Bowl. Now, the Sun Devils would be happy to make the short trip to a different Bowl Championship Series game.

Rudy Carpenter threw for 247 yards and two touchdowns, and No. 13 Arizona State kept its Fiesta Bowl hopes alive with a 20-17 victory over the Wildcats on Saturday night, its third straight Territorial Cup victory.

"I think that's where we deserve to be," Carpenter said. "We're 10-2. It's our hometown and we deserve to go the Fiesta Bowl."

ASU's slim shot at a Rose Bowl berth evaporated when USC defeated UCLA in Los Angeles -- a game that ended just as the Sun Devils (10-2, 7-2 Pac-10) and Wildcats were about to kick off. USC and ASU finished with identical conference records, but the Trojans had the tiebreaker by virtue of a 44-24 victory in Tempe on Nov. 22.

That left the Fiesta as the best bowl option for ASU, which has never played in a BCS game.

Oklahoma may have earned a Fiesta berth by knocking off No. 1 Missouri in the Big 12 title game. If the Sooners come to Glendale, the Fiesta may have to choose between the Sun Devils and 11-1 Kansas.

ASU coach Dennis Erickson wouldn't campaign for a BCS spot. Asked where he thought the Sun Devils might be headed, Erickson said, "I have no clue, and you know what, I don't care. I really don't.

"Whatever happens, happens," Erickson said. "We don't have any control over that."

The Sun Devils didn't look like a BCS contender for most of a chilly night in the desert.

"Are we the most talented team in the world? Probably not," Erickson said. "But are we as resilient as any football team I've been around? Without a question."

The Sun Devils started slowly, as usual, spotting Arizona a 7-0 first-quarter lead on a 1-yard pass from Willie Tuitama to Rob Gronkowski.

It was the eighth time the Sun Devils have trailed after one quarter.

"We like to be down, I guess," said Carpenter, who is 3-0 against Arizona. "I wish it wasn't like that, but I think it just shows that we have guys who are resilient and have a lot of heart."

But the Sun Devils woke up in the second, tying it at 7 on a 3-yard pass from Carpenter to Tyrice Thompson. Carpenter scrambled out of the pocket, pulled up at the line of scrimmage and shoveled the ball to Thompson, who outleaped two defenders under the goal post.

"I didn't know he was going to throw it," Thompson said. "I tell Rudy all the time if he puts it in the air I'm going to go get it."

Thomas Weber kicked a 19-yard field goal in the second and converted from 21 yards in the third to give ASU a 13-7 lead. The Sun Devils had first-and-goal at the Arizona 1 in the second and failed to score a TD, and couldn't punch the ball in on first-and-goal from the Wildcats 3 in the third.

The Wildcats couldn't take advantage of their defensive stands.

Arizona had put up 116 points in its last three games. But the Wildcats' spread offense sputtered.

"Their defense was excellent," Arizona coach Mike Stoops said. "Really, offensively, we struggled to get any rhythm during the course of the game, and that really was the difference."

Tuitama turned the ball over three times -- twice on interceptions and once on a fumble. He completed 28 of 52 passes for 272 yards and two touchdowns.

Arizona cut it to 13-10 on a 31-yard field goal by Jason Bondzio with 8:47 to play.

The Sun Devils responded with a 20-yard touchdown pass from Carpenter to Michael Jones with 4:27 remaining.

ASU had to recover an onside kick after the Wildcats made it 20-17 on a 4-yard pass from Tuitama to Nicholas Grigsby with 26 seconds left.

Arizona (5-7, 4-5) will sit out the postseason for the ninth straight year, the longest bowl drought in the Pac-10.

"Really disappointed we didn't play better as a team," said Stoops, who fell to 1-3 against the Sun Devils. "It just seemed like we couldn't make a play and they made them all."

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