Devils Demolish Ducks, Notch First Pac-10 Win

This is what Sun Devil followers have been waiting for. A highflying offense coupled with an aggressive defense, which all resulted in the team's inaugural conference victory in 2003. Any triumph following a three-game skid is a welcomed sight. However, the fact that ASU annihilated Oregon to the tune of 59-14 may do more than just return the swagger in the players' step.

Quarterback Andrew Walter followed his best game of the year against USC (yards wise), with a better outing against Oregon. The junior threw for a season high 316 yards on 18-28 attempts. He passed for three scores, and for the first time since the season opener against Northern Arizona he didn't throw a pick. The Sun Devil offensive line should be commended for buying precious seconds for Walter in the pocket all afternoon, and not giving up a sack. Once again, Derek Hagan led ASU in receiving, with seven catches for 108 yards including a touchdown. Fellow receivers Skyler Fulton (5-86) and Matt Miller (4-70) were the other recipients of Walter's scoring passes. For Miller it was his first ever touchdown in the maroon and gold, and his 49-yard reception was ASU's longest passing play in 2003.

The team's 159 yards rushing weren't only one of the best performances of the season, but also provided the much-coveted balance on offense, and 35 minutes of possession. Loren Wade led all ball carriers with 78 on nine attempts. 56 of those yards came on a touchdown run (the longest running play of the year), and were part of ASU's 21-point fourth quarter outburst. Starter Hakim Hill chipped in with 63 yards on 20 carries, as well as a pair of touchdowns. Seldom used Cornell Canidate scored his first touchdown since the Oregon game in 2002, and capped off the ASU scoring.

The ASU defenders helped propel the team to a 14-0 lead early in the first quarter. On the third play of the game linebacker Jamar Williams returned an interception 50 yards for a touchdown. Three plays later, quarterback Kellen Clemens was intercepted again, this time by Chris McKenzie who returned the pigskin all the way to the six-yard line, which led to one of Hill's scores. Safety Jason Shivers led all tacklers with nine, while fellow safety Riccardo Stewart added seven stops, including the Sun Devils' lone sack of the day. Linebacker Justin Burks amassed six tackles of his own. Overall, it was an outstanding effort by this group who held a touted Ducks passing attack to 127 yards.

Special teams were an assortment of standout plays and less than memorable ones. Tim Parker had his worst outing of the year averaging 39 yards a punt. ASU was only able to muster 12 yards of return on six Oregon punts, while allowing 118 yards on six kickoffs. Nevertheless, Daryl Lightfoot had an electrifying 67-yard kickoff return. Kicker Jesse Ainsworth did a solid job on kickoffs, and connected on a 43-yard attempt. The 87 yards in penalties marked a regression from the USC game, but the 11-15 3rd down conversion was a vast improvement.

Last week, coach Koetter talked about the team's mission to win seven in a row. Well, make it six now. Skeptics may claim that ASU caught Oregon in a midst of a nasty tailspin, making this win less impressive than it appears. Nevertheless, the progress of this team, which started in the USC game, is undeniable. Last week the team put three or so solid quarters together, and today it was indeed a complete game. The Devils wrap up the non-conference portion of their schedule with a road game at North Carolina next week. The Tar Heels are also breathing a little easier today, after winning their first game this year (28-17 over East Carolina). While a victory next week will do nothing for ASU's standing in the Pac-10, it will validate the apparent turnaround in the team's play.

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