"First half we were rolling," said the signal caller. "I don't excatlly know the cause of the falloff in the second half. We didn't convert some third downs like we did in the first half. So I would say that was probably the main thing. If we convert those we keep on driving." Walter said that they were some signs of progress shown yesterday. "We were playing good," he exclaimed. This the first time I really felt we were clicking. We were running the ball great, throwing the ball on time, it was in rhythm and it felt real good. That's the positive we'll take out of this – it was really the first time were clicking against the best team in The Pac-10 probably."
Saturday's game marked a career performance for receiver Derek Hagan (8-170). Walter talked about the sophomore's play. "He had a great game. He stepped up on some third downs and made some key catches. He was Mr. Reliable on the backside or on the front side when he was the #1 receiver." The Sun Devil quarterback claimed that throwing to Hagan as often as he did, was both a combination of designed plays and the fact that Hagan was at times the best option to throw to. "I had him in my hip pocket sort of," claimed Walter. "When a guy is making plays, you want to feed him the ball as much as you can. A lot of times he was in the right place in the right time, so that's how the game went."
The Trojans' defensive play was far better in the second half, where they held the Devils to one touchdown. Walter talked about that shift in play. "They started dropping a safety in the box to take away our run game," said Walter. "And started blitzing us a little more which had an effect on our pass game. They had to do something to stop the run, and they did. Give them credit – they made an adjustment there." He added that USC's increased confidence level was a big factor as well. "They came out the second half and played much better than the first half. Don't know whether they were feeling more comfortable, and taken more chances. But it was evident that they were putting more pressure on the pass game."
The ASU quarterback doesn't believe that fatigue was part of the offense woes in the second half. However, he did admit that they were many missed chances in the first half, to really break the game open. "To get points off turnovers is huge, and we needed to that in the first half," Walter stated. "We should have gotten more points of that. We were driving every time we got the football. We just couldn't finish the drives. I don't know what that is, but we need to stop that."
As mentioned, Derek Hagan was stellar in ASU's passing game. However, in the post-game interview that mattered very little to him. "The loss really hurts because we were trying to get into the Pac-10 race," said Hagan. "It's a very big loss and it really hurts. We have to come back next week playing really hard…we did a lot of good things on offense…but this loss hurts very hard."
The sophomore said that the Cal win over USC, did help the ASU offense prepare for yesterday's game. "We took a lot off of that film, and did the same things and just executed. We just wanted to play hard and make some plays. All the wideouts played great. Running backs played great. Andrew played very well. I just don't know where it all went wrong."
The sophomore didn't believe that USC surprised them with any new schemes, but rather made plays at crucial points of the game. "They basically did the same thing. They played great. We were up 17-10, and after that they got that touchdown and everything just turned around on us."
Linebacker Jamar Williams also echoed missed opportunities as a reason for the USC loss.
"They were right there for the break," said the sophomore, "And we didn't break them. USC is a great team, and you have to go out a take it to them. Cal gave it to them, and we did that early. But we had to keep on doing it. Towards the end, we just didn't have enough of it."
"The desire throughout the game was there," continued Williams. "But sometimes the light switch just flickered on and off. We can't give up big plays over and over again. It was right there after we were up 17-10, and they scored two quick touchdowns. They took the momentum, and we should have come out stronger. And that's when the desire just let down a little bit. I give a lot of credit to USC, and we should have wanted it a little more."
When the Trojans' staring quarterback left the game due to injury, the linebacker acknowledged that USC's game did suffer accordingly. On the same token, when Linehart returned the power shifted back to the visitors. "We knew once that when No. 10 (USC's backup QB Cassell) came in, that he was gonna be a little shaky," stated Williams. "We knew when Linehart was gonna come back in, that he would try and get some passes to Mike Williams and get the offense going. But you could tell that when Linehart was out we had a little bit more momentum. We knew exactly what they were gonna do, and we had them where we wanted them. I give a lot of credit to Linehart – he took the team on his shoulders. And won it for them."
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