Devils Shock Ducks in Shootout Thriller

Coming into today's matchup the sixth ranked Oregon Ducks posted gaudy stats. 6-0 overall record, winners of 29 of their last 30 home games, and an 11-game unbeaten streak. When ASU trailed 21-0 in the second quarter, it seemed for a minute that the Sun Devils were predictably going to lose a game they seemingly had no chance to win. However, it was another wild comeback victory for Dirk Koetter's team. When the smoke cleared ASU shocked the home team 45-42.

Just when you thought that Andrew Walter was going to have his second consecutive sub par performance, the sophomore came out in the second half with a blazing and accurate arm. His 536 yards passing on 31-53 set a new ASU single-game passing record. He had four touchdowns and two interceptions, on a day where he was sacked three times and constantly pressured or hurried. When Walter has a stellar day, receiver Shaun McDonald is usually the primary beneficiary, and today was no different. The junior came up big with 204 yards on 12 catches, including a 67-yard score. True freshman Derek Hagan had his best game as a Sun Devil hauling in 95 yards on five catches. Two pleasant surprises in the passing game were senior Justin Taplin with 2 catches, both touchdowns, for 80 yards, and redshirt freshman Matt Miller with two huge first down catches that went 68 yards. The rushing game was generally anemic. Redshirt freshman Cornell Canidate, who scored once, led all runners with 47 yards on 19 carries.

It wasn't necessarily a pretty day for the defense, but they rose to the occasion when it counted the most. The run defense was punished for most of the game, as evident in the Ducks' 169 rushing yards. Defending the home team's arial attack wasn't much prettier. Oregon passed for 288 yards, and its signal caller received very little pressure from the Devils' defensive line. When coach Brent Guy's squad decided to turn up the heat, it allowed only one touchdown in the last 19 minutes of play, which allowed the offense to mount its successful comeback. Redshirt freshman Cornerback Josh Golden and sophomore safety Jason Shivers led all tacklers with nine a piece. Senior linebacker Mason Unck had seven total tackles. Junior cornerback Brett Hudson had five total tackles, but will be most remembered for his interception (his team's only pick) that sealed the victory with less than two minutes left in the game. ASU's "bend but don't break" style may add some gray hairs to its fans, but it seems to always greatly aid the team in its victories.

After today, if anyone is still grumbling over Mike Barth's four missed field goals in the North Carolina loss, they should forgive the senior indefinitely. He was 3-3 on his field goal attempts, and his 29-yard score with 1:58 left in the game put his team ahead for good. Punter Tim Parker's average was a luke warm 37.2 yards, but his 23-yard pass on a fake punt was executed to perfection, and kept a late second half drive that resulted in one of Barth's field goals. 111 return yards on kickoffs is a respectable stat, as well as, 14 yards on two punt returns. The 80 yards in penalties need to be taken with some kind grain of salt, since the officiating was mostly biased towards the home team. At the end of the day, even the referees' doing weren't strong enough to deny this sensational ASU victory.

This game marked the beginning of a six-game conference schedule full of potholes. The more pessimistic ASU followers felt that this was going to be the period where the Sun Devils will get exposed for the young and inexperienced team they are. You know what they say about young players – they don't know any better. Thus, a team that was projected contend for the Pac-10 championship in 2003 may be a little ahead of schedule. Based on ASU first eight games, its fans may be witnessing a feature (and impressive) presentation rather than a sneak preview…

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