Devils Edge Tar Heels in a Thriller

What is it about ASU playing North Carolina? Just like last year in Tempe, the Sun Devils explode offensively against a one win Tar Heels team, just to shoot itself repeatedly in the foot. Again, a would-be laugher turns into a nail biter. Nevertheless, this time ASU was the one breaking its opponent heart at home. A last second Walter to Fulton touchdown notched an exhilarating 33-31 victory.

Another week, another record setting game for Andrew Walter. The ASU signal caller was 34-58 for a season high 408 yards. He passed for three touchdowns, and for the second straight game he had no interceptions. Walter's last five yards were obviously the most crucial ones, as wide receiver Skyler Fulton scored the game's last touchdown as time expires. The senior amassed 68 yards on seven catches, and one more score earlier in the game. Fellow receiver Derek Hagan continued to re-write his own record book catching 11 balls for 185 yards and a touchdown, which came in the first three minutes of the game. The sophomore's 42-yard reception was key in ASU's final 61-yard drive, which covered six plays and only 36 seconds.

Redshirt freshman Loren Wade was also instrumental in the win with a career performance of his own - 130 yards on only 16 carries. Starter Hakim Hill had a nice outing as well collecting 72 yards on 14 carries, and scoring once. The duo helped the Devils hold the pigskin for 35:48 seconds, which help keep a potent Tar Heels attack off the field. ASU's offensive line once again did a solid job in aiding the ground attack, as well as protecting Walter.

The Sun Devil defense probably did a better job halting the passing game (167 yards) than the running game (164). It did however recover two fumbles, and limited the home team to 3-11 conversion rate on third down. The most impressive feat of the afternoon was obviously preventing North Carolina from achieving a crucial first down in the last minute of the fourth quarter, which would effectively ended any hope for an ASU victory. Safety Riccardo Stewart led the team once again in tackles gathering ten, while fellow safety and junior Jason Shivers had eight.

At times, ASU's greatest enemy was itself. Questionable officiating and undisciplined play led to a season high 153 yards and 16 penalties. Special teams committed four penalties, which contributed each time to unfavorable field position. Tim Parker had a good outing averaging 42.8 yards a punt. Daryl Lightfoot played well in the return game gaining over 100 yards on his seven kick and punt returns. Kicker Jesse Ainsworth was shaky making two of three of his field goals, as well as having one of his extra point attempts blocked.

The victory over North Carolina was the type of win which, raises more questions than calms the critics. On the other hand, today's game could prove to be an invaluable character building experience for the home stretch of the 2003 campaign. The road does not get any easier for the Devils, as they visit Pac-10 foe UCLA in Pasadena on Saturday. Undoubtedly, there are some aspects of this win that should be carried over for the rest of the season, and some that should be left far behind. One thing is for certain; Sun Devil fans are destined for a roller coaster ride for the remainder of this year…

Sun Devil Source Top Stories