"It's a win and like I told them we're sitting 4-6, trying to crawl out of that hole we're in right now and we're scratching trying to get out of it. Any win for us right now is good. We have a bye; we have to get ready for UCLA, two games left and we'll see what happens."
Despite having decent numbers on offense in the first 30 minutes, Arizona State (4-6, 3-4 Pac-10) had a hard time solving the Washington State (1-10, 0-8) defense in the first half. The Sun Devils gave up two sacks in their opening possession, and Thomas Weber punted a total of four times in this period. The sophomore's 21-yard field goal in less than a minute and a half into the second quarter gave the hosts the first points of the day.
In ASU's next possession, the Sun Devils drove 73 yards as Rudy Carpenter found Kerry Taylor from 14 yards out to give the maroon and gold a modest 10-0 lead, which was ultimately, was the halftime score as well.
"We played terrible in the first half," admitted Carpenter. "Like Coach (Erickson) said, we just struggled with consistency and finding our rhythm at certain points in the season, and that's kind of what happened in the first half."
"Coach made good adjustments at halftime and got us in some positions to make some big plays."
One successful alteration was the insertion of Dimitri Nance into the game. The running back was much maligned during his team's six-game skid, but Saturday evening was redemption time for the junior. He carried the ball nine times (all in the second half) for 48 yards. He also had 23 yards receiving.
"I thought Dimitri Nance gave us a spark," commented Erickson. "For some reason we weren't breaking tackles like I thought we should in the first half. So we decided to put him in there and he came in and made some awfully good runs for us."
An effective ground attack naturally opened the passing lanes for Carpenter, who was 17-25 for 213 yards and three TD's. His last two score tosses were to Kyle Williams who scored on his only two catches of the game from 21 and 51 yards.
The defense continued its domination in the second half, and this time was forcing turnovers as well. In the Cougars' second possession of the stanza, J.T. Levenseller was intercepted by linebacker Mike Nixon. This was the junior's team leading fourth pick of the season.
"Mike is very football smart and he just makes plays," stated Erickson. "He knows where to be. We know that in practice when we go against him. He'll see our offense and know exactly what we're doing. That's how he plays and that's how he gets interceptions with plays like that. He's had a great year."
Alas, the Devils' ensuing possession culminated with a Weber 48-yard missed field goal.
In the beginning of the fourth quarter the suffocating ASU defense deservingly gets some points of its own. Levenseller is sacked for a loss of 26 yards by Luis Vasquez who also forces a fumble. Travis Goethel tried to scoop the ball up, but was able to just keep the pigskin in bounds and allow Lawrence Guy to pick up the ball and run 22 yards into the end zone to cap the ASU scoring.
A 31-0 win against a conference cellar dweller may not be impressive to some, but its significance is well understood among the Sun Devils.
"I think for us it's a very big deal," said Carpenter on the victory's importance. "Like Coach Erickson said, at this point, we're going to take wins anyway we can get them. So, I think we have a little momentum going on our side. Obviously, when you start winning games, practice becomes a little bit easier and guys get a little healthier."
"It's good that we're back in the winning column."
"We all understand that if we win two games we have a chance to go to a bowl game," said Erickson. "That's the light at the end of the tunnel for us, not exactly what he had planned at the beginning if the season but that's what's there for us right now and our players know that."