Tigers Tip Devils in Shootout

In the days leading to the ASU-LSU game, there was much talk about the proverbial red carpet that was going to be rolled out for the visitors from Baton Rouge. For the first three quarters, the Sun Devils were far from hospitable as they controlled the game to the tune of a 17-7 score. Alas, the fourth quarter was a much different story for the maroon and gold. The Tigers, in large part thanks to ASU's special teams blunders, scored four touchdowns to squeeze out a 35-31 victory.

Following a mammoth 80-yard drive that consumed 11:02 minutes, LSU's JaMarcus Russel fumbled a first and goal opportunity. ASU's Jordan Hill returned the ball to the ASU 19-yard line, and the Sun Devils offense started to find success. An eight play 81-yard drive ended in a touchdown pass from Sam Keller to Jamaal Lewis. The Tigers countered with Joseph Addai who's 45 yards from scrimmage in that drive were capped off by his own 1-yard touchdown run to even things at 7-7. A 44-yard catch by Matt Miller let the home march down the field and score a late first half 26-yard field goal by Jesse Ainsworth that made it 10-7.

ASU's first possession of the second stanza found the end zone as Burgess caught an 8-yard pass, and as mentioned the third quarter ended with the Sun Devils leading 17-7. The fourth quarter started with a flurry. With only 13 seconds in, Ainsworth's 47-yard field goal attempt got blocked by Claude Wroten. Furthermore, it was also retuned by the Tigers' Mario Stevenson for 55 yards and a touchdown. A minute and twenty seconds later, what appeared to be a fake punt by ASU (but was actually a run-kick play called from the sidelines), was blocked by Jacob Hester and recovered by Craig Steltz who scampered 29 yards for a touchdown that put LSU up for the first time in the game 21-17.

Ultimately those two quick scores sealed the faith of the game. However, before that came to fruition the Arizona State offense regained the lead on another Keller to Lewis touchdown pass. Both teams traded touchdowns, and with 4:07 left in the contest Moey Mutz catches a 4-yard pass from Keller to give the hosts their last lead of the night 31-28. An ill-advised kick return by Skylar Green put the Tigers on the 9-yard line, but the visitors were able to gobble up a lot real estate, and with less than two minutes left they were at the Devils' 39-yard line.

Three incompletions set up a game deciding 4th down for LSU. Russel saved his best for last connecting with Early Doucet for a touchdown. Erringly similar to the Sun Bowl, ASU had 1:13 seconds left (one less than the Sun Bowl) to march 80 yards for a potentially winning score. However, the maroon and gold were able to get as far as the Tigers' 28-yard line. Four incomplete attempts by Keller turned the ball over on downs. It was clearly one of the most exciting games ever played at Sun Devil stadium, and obviously one of the most frustrating losses that the team that calls this venue home has ever suffered.

Keller passed for a career high 461 yards, and matched his game-high of last week of four TD's. The junior was 35-56 passing with no INT's. Derek Hagan paced the team in catches (seven) and yards (95). Hagan eclipsed John Jefferson as the all-time school's reception leader. Dale Robinson had a career-high of his own of 15 total tackles, which included a sack and a forced fumble. Zach Catanese had a double-digit tackle night as well with 12. ASU out gained The Tigers on offense 560-434 yards, and didn't give up a sack.

The Sun Devils were undeniably resilient in this furious see-saw battle. This is a trait that has to be used by ASU to bounce back from this defeat as they host Northwestern next week. The abundance of frustration and anger from this game has to be channeled positively and effectively towards ASU's next opponent.

Sparky's Sundries Kudos to the 63,210 in attendance. The Sun Devil faithful were respectful towards the Tigers and their fans, but made Sun Devil stadium a true home field advantage for ASU…several LSU fans were tailgating around the stadium, and if their hospitality and Jambalaya was a preview to what's waiting in Baton Rouge, then this is one road trip that can't be missed…the end zones reflected the spirit of cooperation between both schools, and had logos that were in the shape of both states. The north side had the words "Together We Stand" inscribed, while the south side had the hurricane relief website address of www.katrinasrf.com …LSU was technically the home team in this game. Not only was their intro video shown, but when ASU's was playing Sparky wasn't stomping on any opponent's bus as he usually does…best banner of the night was in the student section which read:

Sun Devil
Prays for
New Orleans

Amen to that…

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