Offense Finishes Strong in Spring Game

Last week the scrimmage was characterized by an utter domination of the defense. During the first half of today's scrimmage it was déjà vu all over again. That is until the Andrew Walter –Derek Hagan connection heated up in the second half, and allowed the players in maroon to have their way with their counterparts on defense.

Andrew Walter finished the game completing 12-22 passes for 250 yards. He had two touchdown strikes to Derek Hagan (31 yards) and Rudy Burgess (43). One of his passes was tipped by a receiver and landed in the hands of safety Emmanuel Franklin who took it into the end zone. Walter's backups both had a hard day in the office this afternoon. Sam Keller was 7-12 for 63 yards, while Michael Affleck threw three picks while connecting on 5-9 passes for 112 yards.

Once again, the ASU running backs' depth chart was reduced to two healthy players, and just like in the first scrimmage the two ball carriers made the most of their reps. Hakim Hill rushed for 86 yards on 23 caries (his longest run was for 18 yards), and scored three times – twice from one yard out along with a 3-yard scamper. Randy Hill, the only back to play in all three scrimmages had a solid scrimmage of his own carrying the ball 12 times for 70 yards. One of his touchdowns was an 18 yarder, while the other one was from three yards out. The most dazzling run of the afternoon was a reverse 45-yard touchdown run by wide receiver Terry Richardson.

The lion share of Derek Hagan's yards came in the second half. In fact, most of them were in two-minute like drills where Walter's almost exclusively threw to Hagan time after time. During his touchdown, Hagan masterfully juked almost a handful of defensive backs as he raced to the end zone. No other receiver caught more than three balls, but no less than eight players were involved in the passing game. As mentioned, Rudy Burgess had another long score today, but surprisingly enough, the longest catch of the day belonged to seldom used Alex King who caught a 52-yard pass from Walter very early in the second half. Jamaal Lewis was the only tight end involved in the passing game, as he hauled down three catches for 43 yards.

Aside from his defensive touchdown, Franklin had one tackle for a loss. Mike Davis, Marcus Johnson, and Brett Palmer each intercepted Affleck. Palmer actually fumbled the ball while returning it down field, but fellow defensive tackle Tashaka Merriweather alertly scooped up the pigskin and scored the defense's second and last touchdown of the scrimmage. Both Palmer and Merriweather each had a sack today as well. Ishmael Thrower led all players with two sacks. Lamar Baker had the longest tackle for loss today – stopping Hakim Hill eight yards behind the line of scrimmage, to along with another tackle for loss later in the afternoon. Other defenders who amassed tackles for loss are Thrower and Jamar Williams. Cornerbacks Chris McKenzie and Josh Golden each had a pass breakup. Nevertheless, the Sun Devils secondary didn't have an answer to Walter who threw over 200 yards in the second half (with approximately 140 of them landing in Hagan's sure hands).

On special teams, kicker Jesse Ainsworth converted 11 of 16 attempts. The kicks were all attempted from 35 and 44 yards. The sophomore missed three times from 44 yards out and twice from 35 yards. At one point he made eight kicks in a row (four from each distance). Punter Chris McDonald punted ten times for an average of 44.1 yards, with his longest punt going for 53 yards. Burgess and Golden muffed the first few punts, but later on both redeemed themselves with impressive returns. The longest kick returns belonged to Burgess (39 yards) and Richardson (37).

Following the spring ending scrimmage, ASU's head coach said it's impossible during this period to be equally content with both sides of the ball. "When you play against yourselves," said Koetter, "it's hard for one side to walk away totally satisfied. But I told them they all worked hard this spring, and no one should walk away disappointed. There's great things out there, and not so great things and we have plenty of time to iron those things out." In regards to the team's overall consistency he remarked: "We're not where we need to be in many areas, but we're also showed signs of where we can be."

One aspect that hardly seemed flawed this afternoon was the offensive passing combination of Walter and Hagan "Both of those guys are proven players," stated Koetter. "But I think anybody that was here today saw how Derek Hagan has elevated his game. He's going to be one of the top receivers in the Pac-10. He's versatile, he can play all the spots, he's tough, he can block, he can play on special teams, and he can leave his feet and make plays in the air."

In Koetter's mind, there's one major reason that has allowed Hagan to elevate his game. "Confidence. He's playing with a ton of confidence. When things were going bad in the first half, he's the best guy in the offensive huddle trying to get the rest of the guys to pick it up."

Other players singled out by Koetter today were Richardson for his returning ability, Palmer, Franklin, and Davis on defense, as well as Thrower. The Sun Devil skipper didn't think that any of the ailments in the spring are serious enough to hinder players' availability for fall camp, and said that the various injuries will be "cleaned up over the summer."

It was another fine scrimmage performance by running back Hakim Hill. Koetter is generally pleased with the junior, but he would also like to see steadiness from Hill. "The question on Hakim is if he can show consistency over a period of months, not a period of days," Koetter commented. "That's where Loren (Wade)and Randy do such a great job. Hakim can definitely flash his talent, and he shows that he belongs." Koetter added that Wade was held out as a precaution with a sore shoulder, but he would play today if it were a regular season game situation.

Koetter laid out the team's plans for the upcoming weeks. "We have two weeks where the players will still be running and lifting," he said, "until we go to what we call a ‘discretionary time' for five weeks, where we can't mandate it. In those two weeks the players we'll have individual meetings with their position coach, and sit down with them for half an hour. In the second week they'll have a meeting with me."

"In the meantime," continued Koetter, "the coaches will be working on their teaching tapes, to give the guys tapes to take home in the summer to study. The coaches at the same time will be gearing up for spring recruiting. We have four weeks starting up in the first week of May."

Scrimmage Stats


Walter 12-22 250 2TD 1 INT
Keller 7-12 63 No TD's or INT's
Affleck 5-9 112 3 INT's


H.Hill 23-86 3TD's
R. Hill 12-70 2TD's
Richardson 1-45 TD


Hagan 11-179 TD
Richardson 3-43
Lewis 3-38
Burgess 2-70
King 2-61
Hernandez 2-37
Mutz 1-6
Gray 1-5


Franklin 1 INT for TD, One Tackle for loss Davis, Marcus Johnson, and Palmer one INT each Merriweather Fumble recovery for a TD Thrower 2 sacks Merriweather and Palmer one sack each Lamar Baker two tackles for loss Thrower and Jamar Williams one tackles for loss each Chris McKenzie and Josh Golden one pass breakup each

Special Teams

Ainsworth 11-16 FG's (longest field goal of 44 yards)
McDonald 10 punts for an average of 44.1 yards (longest punt for 53 yards)

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