Unlikely Hero Helps Devils Defeat The Wildcats

Being a Sun Devil running back this year, let alone the third one on the depth chart, wasn't a glamorous position to the least. The ongoing criticism over ASU's running game, hardly made any of the Sun Devils' ball carriers feel good about their game. Seldom used running back Mike Williams, who lost his starting job early in the season, had the last laugh today. His four touchdowns were the key factor that led to the 34-20 victory over Arizona in Tucson.

The Devils' explosive passing game took a back seat to the rejuvenated ground attack. Williams had a career day amassing 162 yards on 40 carries (for a 4.1 average) and more importantly scoring all of his team's touchdowns. One must credit Dirk Koetter's team for recognizing the Wildcats' weakness in defending the run, and relentlessly attacking it. Andrew Walter had an average game with 295 yards passing on 25-35 attempts. He was pressured quite often, and as a result was sacked three times. His two interceptions didn't help matters at the time, but in the grand scheme of things didn't hurt either. Another improbable hero on offense was tight end Mike Pinkard, who today was Walter's favorite target. The senior caught six balls for 80 yards, and on several occasions helped ASU's drives stay alive. Other notable receivers were Skyler Fulton 5-47, Derek Hagan 3-52, and Daryl Lightfoot 3-50. ASU's offensive line should deserve much praise for their ability to open the running lanes, and do a better job protecting Walter in the second half.

As in many games this year, the Sun Devils' defense compensated for a mediocre first half, by properly adjusting at half time. Arizona scored only seven points in the last thirty minutes, and was shut out in the fourth quarter where the ASU victory was sealed. Coming into the game the Wildcats running game was known to be deficient, and the Devils' front six did an admirable job keeping that reputation. The home team was sacked three times, and intercepted just as often. Furthermore, two of its fumbles were recovered by ASU. The Cats were able to pass for 269 yards, but most of that damage was inflicted in the first half. Terrell Suggs, in what possibly could be his last regular season game in the maroon and gold, rewrote the record books one more time. His two sacks put him on top the ASU career sack leaders. His forced fumble was recovered by Unck, who also had an interception. The other two ASU picks went to Jason Shivers who will end the regular season once again as the leading tackler on ASU with 112. In the Arizona game Shivers and Suggs led all defenders with eight tackles.

The Devils' special teams probably can't take credit for Arizona's missed extra point, but they executed to perfection the blocked punt by Matt Miller. Kicker Mike Barth was solid as usual successfully converting his two field goal attempts, as well as all of his extra points. Punter Tim Parker had an easy but productive day – one punt for fifty yards. ASU's running game allowed the team to control the ball for 34 minutes. If there was one blemish on today's game it was yet another undisciplined display to the tune of 11 penalties for 96 yards. Nevertheless, most of those penalty yards didn't occur in the last 21 minutes of the game where the visitors from Tempe outscored their opponent 21-0.

The Sun Devils displayed their resilience again, coming back on the road to win in a hostile environment. It was refreshing to see how ASU displayed quiet confidence leading up the game, knowing that rivalry aside they were the better team. Coach Koetter said that rivalry games don't have to be close, and this one was broken wide open in the later stages. This unforeseen season doesn't come to an end quite yet. ASU will be playing in one of four bowls, but won't know where until a little over a week from now. That seems just enough time to relish in the limelight of this emotional victory, and enjoy a rewarding season. This was a year full of surprise victories, and surprising performances, such as Mike Williams' today. One can only wonder what the bowl game has in stored for the maroon and gold faithful.

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