Devils Tame Wildcats 30-21

Evanston, Ill. - In recent years, the Sun Devils have not enjoyed much success on the road. Therefore, this afternoon's victory over the Wildcats could be considered a rarity. However, more than an uncommon sight, this win was achieved under heavier adversity than last week's UTEP game, and may have proved that resiliency could be staple of the 2004 ASU squad.

Arizona State drew first blood, when Jesse Ainsworth made a chip shot 20-yard field goal. Northwestern answered with a Noah Herron 9-yard run to grab their only lead of the game 7-3. The reliable Andrew Walter to Derek Hagan connection struck twice (47 and 41 yards respectively) to give the maroon and gold a 17-7 lead at halftime. Terry Richardson caught a score of his own, when laying out for a beautiful 30-yard touchdown catch that gave the visitors their biggest lead of the contest 24-7 midway through the third quarter.

The Cats came back roaring with a Terrell Jordan 25-yard run scored, and following a recovered kickoff quarterback Brett Basanez took it in on a 13-yard run late in the third quarter to cut the lead to 24-21. The Devils may not have played their prettiest game in the fourth quarter, but the defense pitched a shutout. Two more field goals by Ainsworth padded the score, and pleased the thousands of vocal ASU fans in attendance.

Walter who was an uncharacteristic 7-20 at the half, finished 19-36 passing for 294 yards and three touchdowns. Loren Wade had a career-high 24 carries for 102 yards, while allowing his team to gain valuable possession time. Hagan recorded his fifth straight 100-yard game nabbing eight balls for 155 yards. Riccardo Stewart's forced fumble (the only turnover in the game, recovered by Ishmhael Thrower) in the fourth quarter was arguably the biggest play of the game, and Jordan Hill who started at defensive tackle had two sacks of Basanez. Hill's biggest play was probably tackling Northwestern's punter Brain Huffman on a failed fake punt. Ainsworth had a 47-yard field goal partly blocked, but had a career high three field goals in one game. Chris MacDonald averaged only 39 yards a punt, but just like last week he had several crafty kicks that were strategically angled. Rudy Burgess had an outstanding day, despite two fumbles, having 144 yards of returning kicks and punts.

"We made a little tougher than it needed to be, " said head coach Dirk Koetter. "I give Northwestern credit. We had them knocked out and sort of let them back in the game. I'm proud of our team in the fourth quarter. When we needed to make plays we did. Riccardo had a huge hit, and taking it down on a 6 ½ minute drive with Randy Hill at tailback...it could have been easier but bottom line we're 2-0 and they're 0-2."

"We have to play better, " Koetter admitted. "But let's not forget - we were not favored to win this game. Not many people were picking us to come to a Big 12 bowl team and win. Sure, we would love to have win by three touchdowns, but the bottom line it's a "W." I'm proud with the way we competed."

"It's good to be back," said Stewart who missed the season opener last week with an injury, and caused the lone turnover of the game. "I waited for a clean shot all day (smile). We played off a lot, and had our guys stay underneath because they played a quick (passing) game. Our coaches told us to be patient, and that our time will come...Jamar Williams took on two blocks, so I know I would be free. I almost overran him, but I just came over and shot at him. Let me tell you, it felt good (smile)." When asked about this win being a strong statement for a team that hasn't enjoyed much success away from Tempe he replied: "Coach Koetter put it the best. The old ASU team, when momentum jumped off our side would have just caved in. Last year we didn't have this, and we have it right now. Guys are ‘answering the scratch.' That's our motto. We're coming back and we're never out. It's like the 2002 team. Defensively we're putting the wood on a lot of guys, and it feels great. We're 2-0 right now, and we're gonna play a great team next week with a lot of fans. That's why you play big time college football."

There were many dropped balls, especially in the first quarter, that could have given ASU a commanding lead early in the game. Hagan addressed that issue. "When you first get started it's kind of frustrating," he said. "But eventually everyone is gonna come through and make plays. Drops will happen sometimes, you just don't know when it's gonna happen. Fortunately for us, it happened in the beginning of the game. After that, Terry and I started making some plays. With the wind, the ball was wobbling like a duck, and it was hard to slow down and catch it...it's time to look forward to Iowa. They embarrassed us in their house, and now they're coming over here (to Tempe). It's gonna be payback this year."

Just like last week, the stats won't show it, but Walter had an average performance under center. He said that he was able to shake off the early game frustrations that came with the after mentioned dropped passes. "I could have played better, " he commented. "I don't think I hit my stride yet. Once that happens it will be real nice. The game reminded me of Oregon two years ago. We didn't do a lot in the first quarter, where we should have, because they gave us a lot. Then we kind of hit our stride and gave it back. Once those big plays started coming, which they were open and we should have had, it can be nice."

"It's always frustrating when that happens (dropped passes)," Walter continued. "Missing on a deep ball that should have been a touchdown...I do it (make mistakes). They (the receivers) do it. We just have the eliminate those and keep on going. They were a lot of big plays left out there."

Sparky's Sundries: Much kudos to the contingent of Sun Devil fans today in Evanston. They may have been only 2,000 or so, but their presence was felt in the stadium, as well as in the tailgate area...the team's motto "Answer the Scratch" was displayed on a banner in the stands...head coach Dirk Koetter is now 16-1 at ASU when he leads after three quarters...For the Northwestern game, permanent team captains Walter and Stewart, were joined by Emmanuel Franklin and Grayling Love...we know that the "Miller Time" slogan is probably worn out by now, but what else can you utter when Matt, Brent, and Zach Miller all enter the game at the same time?...speaking of Miller, Zach Miller caught his first pass in the maroon and gold, an 11-yarder in the fourth quarter, but not before he had a zero yard return on a short Northwestern kickoff...Not only did Northwestern honor the victims of September 11th and our country's service men and women, but they played some of the ASU fight song in honor of Pat Tillman.

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