Big Plays, Walter Injury Doom Devils Against UCLA

It has been a while since the Rose Bowl has produced good memories for ASU. Tonight, that storied stadium in Pasadena left the Devils once again with an unpleasant memory. An early second quarter injury to quarterback Andrew Walter sidelined the signal caller, and in essence stalled the ASU offense from there on. The 20-13 victory by the Bruins may not appear as a dominating victory, but the fact of the matter is that the home team did have its way with the visitors for most of the contest.

Before Walter was sacked on the sixth play of the second quarter, he was only 4-10 for 53 yards. He faced constant pressure from the UCLA defense, and suffered an ankle injury on the Bruins' second sack of the game. Backup quarterback and true freshman Sam Keller was inserted into an impossible situation, and facing an even more aggressive UCLA defense he completed 11-21 passes for 79 yards. Loren Wade eclipsed the century mark again in rushing when he collected 113 yards on only 19 carries. His 61-yard touchdown run was one of the lone ASU highlights in this contest. However, his late third quarter fumble deep in the Bruins' territory, following an ASU interception, may demoralized the team for the rest of the game. Skyler Fulton led his teammates with 44 yards on five catches, on a night where the team had a season low 132 yards receiving.

This was the type of game where one may have a hard time criticizing or applauding the defense. The ASU defenders did hold UCLA to only 3-13 on third down, while not allowing the home team to dominate the time of possession. Nevertheless, they gave up a handful of big plays, including an 83-yard touchdown run by the Bruins' Maurice Drew. All night long they didn't have an answer for Drew (18 carries for 176 yards) or receiver Craig Bragg (5 catches for 118 yards). One would assume that giving up 392 yards would yield more than 20 points. Nonetheless, ASU did a good job keeping UCLA out of the red zone, and intercepted the Bruins on two different occasions.

Punter Tim Parker averaged 41.8 yards on a season high 11 punts. Both the kick and punt coverage teams played their best game of the season limiting the home team to only 51 total return yards. Daryl Lightfoot continued his fine play, returning a total on ten punts and kickoffs for 136 yards. Kicker Jesse Ainsworth made two of three field goals, missing on a 50-yard attempt. ASU was probably elated to see competent officiating for a change, and their five penalties for 25 yards was the lowest total on the year. Despite gaining only 10 first downs all night, the Devils barely trailed in time of possession 28:11 to 31:49.

With the loss to UCLA the margin of error in ASU's efforts to play in the post season has been greatly reduced. The health of Andrew Walter from here on out may also be a factor that will weigh in heavily on this issue. If there's any silver lining for the rest of the season, it's that in theory ASU's remaining schedule is less challenging that it has been thus far. Three out of four games are against Pac-10 foes that are in the lower echelon of the conference. However, the Sun Devils find themselves now tied for next to last in the league. If Coach Dirk Koetter's team wants to separate itself from the Pac-10 cellar, then a win against Cal this Saturday is a dire necessity.

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