Thu Dec 02 11:57pm EST
Arizona State 30, Arizona 29 (Double OT). From the box score, you might think the first half of Arizona State's rivalry collision with Arizona on Thursday night was shaping up as the Night of the Punter: Over the first 30 minutes alone, the two offenses combined for 14 punts, 10 three-and-outs and just six points, on two field goals by Arizona State's Thomas Weber. But between ASU's Trevor Hankins and 'Zona's Alex Zendejas, even the punting lent itself to high comedy, beginning with an 8-yard clunker off the side of Hankins' foot at the start of the second quarter.
What could be worse than that? How about the shank Zendejas offered four plays later, which went in the books, officially, as a "punt for no gain" – otherwise known as the exceedingly rare zero-yarder:
As it turned out, that embarrassment was the least of Zendejas' troubles. Trailing 20-14 late in the fourth quarter, the Arizona offense drove 57 yards in 10 plays for the apparent game-winning touchdown, a 5-yard pass from Nick Foles to David Douglas with 33 seconds on the clock. Zendejas' subsequent extra point for the win, however, was blocked, sending the game to overtime instead at 20-20. After trading field goals in the first overtime, Arizona answered an ASU touchdown in the second frame to pull within 30-29 – only to have Zendejas drive another PAT into the line to draw the curtain on the Wildcats' fourth consecutive loss to close the regular season.
[Rewind: Soccer player blows easy goal]
A month ago, Arizona was 7-1 and ranked ninth in the nation; after Thursday night, they're 7-5, saddled with a losing record in Pac-10 play, and Zendejas is the goat. ESPN's camera briefly caught him stopping to spar with hecklers in the home crowd as he tried to escape the field ASAP in the immediate aftermath of his decisive OT miss.
The irony? Zendejas spent the last year as the hero of the Territorial Cup rivalry, after his 30-yard, game-winning field goal to put the Sun Devils away on the final snap last year in Tempe, 20-17. A kicker can't lose a game himself any more than he can win it, but as high as Zendejas felt after last year's triumph, odds are he's going to feel exponentially lower until his last shot at the Sun Devils rolls around next November.
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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.