Devils Conclude Home Season with a 45-28 Victory

In the last couple of home games, Sun Devil fans have experienced nail-biting moments and furious fourth quarter comebacks. Thus, Saturday night was a welcomed change, as Arizona State (8-2, 5-2 Pac-10) had no trouble dismantling Washington State (4-6, 2-5). The maroon and gold not only concluded an undefeated season at home, but also properly honored American hero Pat Tillman and sent out a spectacular senior class with a smile on their faces.

The Sun Devils came blazing out of the gates to establish their dominance over the visitors from Pullman, scoring on three successive possessions. A crafty interception by Kyle Caldwell set up a 28-yard scoring connection between Andrew Walter and Matt Miller. On its next possession, punter Chris McDonald executed a fake punt to perfection to find Lee Burghgraef for a 34-yard completion, which led to an 18-yard touchdown reception by Terry Richardson. In its fourth possession on the game, and still with over four minutes remaining in the first stanza, Hakim Hill's 26-yard run, coupled with a face mask penalty by the Cougars, ultimately resulted in Walter's third touchdown pass of the opening quarter, this time to Derek Hagan for 11 yards to put ASU ahead 21-0. Lapses on defense (yielding a 56-yard run) and special teams (giving up a 76-yard punt return) brought Washington State within a touchdown 21-14. Nonetheless, the maroon and gold defense shut out the Cougars in the second quarter, and Hill's 2-yard scamper along with a Jesse Ainsworth 21-yard field goal gave ASU a 31-14 lead going into halftime.

In the third quarter Walter converted a crucial third down play, by finding Moey Mutz for 12 yards. Two plays later, the ASU signal caller locates Hill for an 11-yard touchdown, which increases the margin to 38-14. A 47-yard catch by Hagan, followed by a 24-yard catch by Zach Miller, sets up the later for a 5-yard score to give the home team their biggest lead of the night 45-14. Washington State found the end zone twice in the last period, but it proved to be too little too late.

In his last game at Sun Devil stadium, at least as a college player, Walter was virtually flawless. The senior completed 26-41 passes for 332 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions. To top it all off, he now owns yet another team record for most touchdown passes in a season (30). Hill returned as the starter in the backfield, and went on to have another solid outing gaining 94 yards on 24 carries, plus a score. Hagan led all receivers with nice catches, 113 yards, and a touchdown. Matt Miller hauled in 86 yards on three receptions and a score of his own. Riccardo Stewart and Jamar Williams each had a team-leading eight tackles, but Caldwell may have been the biggest star on this side of the ball with two sacks and the after mentioned interception.

"There were so many sidebars tonight. I can't do justice to the retiring of the Pat Tillman jersey and put his name and number up on the wall," said head coach Dirk Koetter following the game. "He is a true American hero. It's such an honor for our players and coaches to wear the same uniform that he once wore. Couple that with our 13 seniors playing their final game on Frank Kush Field. We really went out and dominated the game. This team is unique in many ways. This team has usually found a way to get it done. I'm very proud of our guys and they did some great things tonight." Following the game, the team gave a game ball to Pat Tillman's father in the Sun Devils' locker room.

Koetter applauded his defense, which pitched a shutout for two quarters. "That's three weeks in a row I think our defense has played really well," he said. "Especially the first (team) defense because they only really gave up a couple of plays. We're just not a very deep team. When we went to our subs in the fourth quarter it wasn't a pretty sight. But that's how you get your guys experience. I think we totally dominated the game and just didn't do a very good job of putting it away."

At the end of the game, as the Sun Devils exited the stadium into the Pat Tillman tunnel and their locker rooms, fans in the end zone were already chanting "Beat U of A." The bye week will let the strong emotions of this night to properly sink in, and eventually give way for rivalry game preparation. There have been many impressive team and individual achievements thus far. Nonetheless, some may argue that beating Arizona has been and always will be one of the greatest feats the maroon and gold can have. Thus, the team's collective sleeves will stay rolled up just a little bit longer as they hope to turn a solid 2004 campaign into a special one.

Sparky's Sundries What a shame that on such a special night only 60,319 fans showed up. These days, even fielding a winning team isn't enough to put folks in the seats…many of those in attendance naturally wore the throwback Pat Tillman jersey…1996 team stars Jake Plummer (sporting shaggy hair and beard to boot), Keith Poole, Shawn Swayda, and others were on the field for the halftime ceremonies…Best banner of the night was featured in the student section. It was a portrait of Tillman with the saying "To remind us what courage looks like.

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