Trojans Topple Devils 37-17

ASU's third straight loss this year, and second consecutive Pac-10 play had a different feel to it compared to previous weeks. The Sun Devils were not dominated for 60 minutes, and actually held their own in the first half, and started the second half grabbing a 17-10 lead. The events that ensued from that point on were troubling reminders of the shortcomings that have plagued Dirk Koetter's team in 2003. 27 unanswered points later, and the dreams of a Rose Bowl berth were dashed for good.

Statistically speaking, Andrew Walter had his best game passing wise against the visitors from Los Angeles. The ASU signal caller was 19-38 for 305 yards, throwing for one score and one interception. Even the harshest Sun Devil critic would have to admit that Walter and his receivers looked much more in synch than any other game this year. Nevertheless, The offense as a whole failed to capitalize, once again, on the solid play of the defense in the first half.

Hakim Hill did an adequate job running the ball for 74 yards on 21 carries. To his defense, the offensive line failed to open running lanes for him, and thus halted much of the momentum he gained in the first thirty minutes. Speaking of the hogs up front, they doubled their sack total for the year this afternoon giving up five sacks. Derek Hagan was the undisputed star on offense turning in a career day in both catches (8) and yards (170). Otherwise, the receivers as a group failed to considerably improve their sluggish play. For the first time since the USC game last year, where he was injured on one of the first plays in the game, Daryl Lightfoot was held to no catches.

The defense once again started out strong, and after being scored on in the first USC possession, they settled down forcing the visitors to punt four times in the first half, as well as forcing and recovering a pair of fumbles. Nevertheless, the Sun Devil defenders wore down as the game progressed and gave up a season high 27 points in the second half. While it was predictable for the dangerous tandem of Mike Williams and Keary Colbert to get over 100 yards each, ASU may have been shocked by Trojans' running back LenDale White who run all over defenders amassing 140 yards on only 21 carries. Riccardo Stewart maintained his lead in team tackles, making 11 stops and notching one pick. Fellow safety Jason Shivers tallied six tackles, one of them a sack, and forced two fumbles. Linebacker Justin Burks tallied seven tackles, including a sack of his own. Cornerback Chris McKenzie had six stops in a successful debut as a starter.

Punter Tim Parker was just edged by his counterpart Tom Malone, averaging 45.1 (in contrast to Malone's 45.2) on eight punts. Three of his punts landed inside the 20-yard line (two of them inside the 10). Kicker Jesse Ainsworth connected on a 25-yard field goal after missing a 47 yarder, and was very efficient kicking off. He also recovered a fumble when USC coughed up the pigskin on a kickoff return. Lightfoot returned two punts for 20 yards. USC kicker Ryan Killeen didn't offer many chances for the Devils to return kicks. Lightfoot returned a kickoff for 11 yards, and Josh Golden for 18. One bright spot was the lack of penalties by ASU who had 6 for only 33 yards.

At this time, the maroon and gold followers are running out of adjectives to describe their displeasure. Even though the team may have played their best game this year, the end result was once again disappointing. If one is looking for a comforting thought, it is that ASU thus far perhaps played two of the top three teams (along with Wash. St.) in the conference the last two weeks. Thus, the schedule for the rest of the month has potentially (and we use that word cautiously) some winnable games that could somewhat sweeten the bitter taste of the 2003 campaign. Then again, one has to wonder if this Sun Devil squad can pick itself up from the proverbial mat and swing effectively at its next opponent. Today, USC was able to shake off its first loss of the season, and Oregon is coming to Tempe on Saturday following two consecutive losses. Feel free to draw your own conclusion…

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