Devils lose heartbreaker to archrival

ASU's 20-17 loss to Arizona was a cruel microcosm of a season full of close and frustrating defeats. Kyle Williams tied the game with a nifty 14-yard touchdown catch with just over two minutes left. Alas, the senior wide receiver playing his last game in the maroon and gold did not get out of the way of a punt return and that set up the Wildcats for the winning field goal as time expired.

Arizona's Kennyan Crier punt went for 40 yards, as it bounced at the ASU 22-yard line, Kyle Williams didn't get out of the way and elected to attempt and field the ball under rainy and windy conditions. The fumble was recovered by the Wildcats and Alex Zendejas, much like other members of his family before him, made the winning field goal.

"I'm kind of at a loss for words," said Arizona State (4-8, 2-7 Pac-10) Head Coach Dennis Erickson. "Our guys fought back in the second half. You tie it and we have all the momentum in the second half, and to have that (Williams fumble) happen…I don't know how you can lose it any worse than that.

"Lot of emotions for the players in the locker room, lot of emotions for the coaches, lot of emotions for me…"

Erickson stated that he felt that the wide receiver was indecisive during that punt return.

"He came forward to catch it," Erickson recalled, "and at the last minute he decided to go get it…obviously as you look at it now he should have let it go. But that's easy to say where I'm sitting at.

"He was trying to be aggressive, trying to make a play. It just turned out the way it did. If it weren't for Kyle I didn't know that we would be in the game."

The Sun Devil skipper said that he hugged Williams in the locker room. "There's not much you can say," Erickson commented.

Another trait for the maroon and gold this year, along with close losses, was the slow starts and unfortunately that hampered the hosts on Saturday afternoon. In its first possession kicker Thomas Weber, still bothered by his groin injury, missed a 36-yard attempt, which ultimately was the difference in the game.

Keola Antolin, who won the game's Bob Moran MVP award, ripped a 67-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, to give Arizona their first lead of the game. ASU, with quarterback Samson Szakacsy at the helm, wasn't able to generate much offense for the Devils completing just 3 of 5 passes for 49 yards as he was also sacked three times.

At the 7:21 mark of the second quarter Danny Sullivan, entered the game, not having much success himself initially. To make matters worse, Trevor Hankins' punt in Sullivan's first series was blocked by Orlando Vargas who also returned the ball for a touchdown.

"I just felt he didn't have any pace going," Erickson said of the decision for the switch at signal caller. "He couldn't get anything going. Obviously that's my opinion and that's the only one that counted. He seems like he was running out of (the pocket) quick and he just didn't have any rhythm. I just felt we had to do (the switch) early.

"Danny has experience, has been in games and if things didn't go well, we can bring him in and obviously what can you say about the way he executed and the things he did. We had to score twice in the end and he just made big plays.

"The thing with Danny is that he's pretty smart, he understands the game. When we were on the sideline when Sam was in, he was telling about this happening and that happening. He always stayed focused even with the things he had to fight through. I felt like he would go in and wouldn't make mistakes and that's exactly what happened." Sullivan was 14 of 28 for 168 yards (8 of 12 in the second half) and found Williams twice for touchdowns of 44 yards and the aforementioned 14 yarder.

The ASU defense, exhibiting another ASU attribute of the 2009 campaign, came roaring out of the gates in the second half. They limited the visitors to 99 yards of total offense and two field goals in the last 30 minutes.

"All year we've never given up," said linebacker Travis Goethel. "We keep fighting. It just didn't turn out for us."

"It's pretty hard to argue with their performance all year on defense," Erickson remarked. "We played well to beat anybody and today was a prime example of that against an awfully good offensive football team that has gone up and down the field against most teams in the country.

"They were pretty stifled and we were able to get the ball back, and that's what kept us in the game and that's what has happened to us all year."

Erickson acknowledged that changes will need to take place in the off-season in order to improve the team, but naturally less an hour after the loss he didn't specify what those moves would include.

"First of all we have to go out and recruit," Erickson pointed out, "fill some areas that we need to fill maybe with junior college guys. I have to sit down next week and see where we are at and what we need to do as far as the steps that we have to take to get better.

"We can't stay where are."

The ASU head coach said that he was proud of his team as a whole, and specifically the 22 seniors, who always fought through what has naturally been a trying season. Yet, emotions aside, Erickson knows that this effort wasn't enough on Saturday afternoon.

"It's still a loss and that's the bottom line in this business," said Erickson.


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