Devils Demolish Cats to Conclude 2003 Season

From the day Dirk Koetter arrived in Tempe, he probably heard the following saying several times: <I>whatever you do make sure you beat U of A</I>. And for the second straight year his squad has done exactly that. With one of the best offensive displays of the season Arizona State routed Arizona 28-7.

It was believed that the bye week would do wonders for Andrew Walter's ailing ankle, and judging by his performance one would be hard pressed to defy that theory. Walter was an economical 16 for 26 passing for 281 yards and three touchdowns. Aside form one fumbled snap; the junior was error free on the afternoon. For the second game in a row, both Derek Hagan and Skyler Fulton eclipsed the century mark. Hagan had 155 yards on eight catches, while Skyler Fulton caught five balls for 106 yards. Both receivers did score.

Much of the success of the passing game was attributed to the best rushing performance of the year. Loren Wade gained 120 yards on 18 carries, including a touchdown. Fellow redshirt freshman Randy Hill was very effective if relief duty, amassing 71 yards on 13 carries. Naturally, the offensive line aided the ground attack in a big way and did its part in protecting Water, allowing one sack during the contest.

Koetter described the defensive performance as "bend but not break." With Arizona gaining 452 yards and only having 7 points to show for, truer words have never been spoken. Furthermore, the Cats possessed the ball for 34 minutes and 54 seconds. It what may have been his last game as a Sun Devil, Jason Shivers paced all tacklers with 11. This was the third year in a row that Shivers finished the season as the tackle leader. Matt Fawley and Justin Burks added nine stops each. The lone interception by ASU was courtesy of R.J. Oliver who's end zone pick killed a potential scoring drive by the visitors.

Aside from a Jesse Ainsworth 43-yard missed field goal, it was a solid all around day for the Sun Devils' special teams. Tim Parker averaged 42.4 yards on his handful of punts. Josh Golden had 39 return yards on four punts. ASU's coverage teams had one of their best outings this year, when they limited Arizona to only 40 combined return yards. Penalties were another area that shined, as the home team committed four penalties for 20 yards.

Can one win erase the agony of a whole season? That question will undoubtedly be debated during the Devils' off-season. Nevertheless, today's victory did offer a glimpse, for the most part, at the talent level that returns for the 2004 campaign. Some say finishing the season with a win, let alone a convincing one over your archrival, is a positive springboard for next season. The wait for the opening game in 2004 may be a long one, but if it starts the way this current football year ended it may be worth it.

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