Fourth Quarter Shutout Dooms Devils Against Cal

Coming down the home stretch of the last three regular season games, it was time once again for the Devils to prove a point. It was an opportunity to show that the surprising success that ASU enjoyed thus far was going to continue. While it was never said out loud, the Sun Devils knew that their game against Cal was the most winnable one left, and a victory would re-build much needed momentum. Time will tell what effect the 55-38 loss would have on the Devils for the rest of the season.

Even a solid effort by quarterback Andrew Walter wasn't enough for the Sun Devils to claim victory. The sophomore was 29-50 for 477 yards (setting a new ASU single season record with 2,992 passing yards), including four touchdowns and one interception. However just like in the Washington State game, Walter was constantly pressured as evident in the Bears' six sacks. Furthermore, his lone interception was returned for a touchdown, and his two fumbles helped Cal sustain their advantage that much more. Receiver Daryl Lightfoot had his best game in the maroon and gold hauling six passes for 163 yards and a touchdown. Shaun McDonald had 138 yards (setting another ASU single-season record with 1,207 receiving yards) on the same number of catches, scoring twice. With the large number of sacks, the rushing yards numbers tend to look uglier than usual. However, even when deducting the minus 41 yards in sacks from the minus 2 total rushing yards, it crystal clear that the struggles in the running game have once again reared their ugly head. Hakim Hill was the leading rusher with 28 yards on eight carries, and his lone touchdown late in the third quarter was the last time ASU lead (38-35).

As bizarre as it may sound, it's hard to really heavily criticize the defensive performance on ASU' part. Granted, it was by far one of their worst perfoamnces, but it the offenses' turnovers, including the interception returned for a score, constantly put the Sun Devil defenders on their field for excessive amounts of time, and deep in their own territory. A blocked punt returned for a touchdown, is another example of points that will be unjustly be "credited" to this side of the ball. Nevertheless, ASU was unable to slow down a well-balanced Cal attack – 168 rushing yards and 213 passing, which negates the three turnovers caused by the ASU defense. Safety Jason Shivers lead with 11 tackles, while Mason Unck and Shane Jones each had ten. Terrell Suggs' lone sack brought his total up to 19.5 breaking the ASU and Pac-10 record for single season sacks.

The Sun Devils' special teams may have had their worst outing of the season since the Nebraska game. The blocked punt by Cal that led to a score was only the tip of the iceberg. The poor judgment exercised by the ASU's kick returners unnecessarily pinned the Devils in unfavorable field position, and the punt returns did fair that much better. Punter Tim Parker had a good night with 41.8-yard average. Kicker Mike Barth was 1-2 on his field goal attempts, but his miss did come from 51 yards out. Losing the time of possession battle 32:21-27:39, and the 73 yards in penalties are additional stats indicative of the night Dirk Koetter's team had in Sun Devil Stadium.

The two consecutive losses are new territory for the Sun Devils. The inability to bounce back from the Washington State loss has the threat of snow bowling the season in an adverse manner. Additionally, facing a red-hot USC team in Los Angeles next up has now become a more daunting task than just a few weeks ago. The battle cry of "We've seen this happen last year" is starting to echo in Tempe, and it's up to this team in the next couple of weeks to once again prove some doubters wrong.

Sun Devil Source Top Stories