Injuries, late plays doom the Cats

It was a microcosm of the season. Injuries and sloppy mistakes mounted for the Wildcats. By the game's end the Wildcats had lost their leading receiver, their leading passer and their leading rusher along with their most sure handed player. In the end it came down to a chip shot field goal to propel the Sun Devils to a 23-20 win and bid in the Insight Bowl.

Jesse Ainsworth hit a chip shot field goal with just six seconds remaining to give the Devils their sixth win of the game.

The game was actually lost earlier in the fourth quarter. The Wildcats were driving when they face a third and long. The Devils blitzed and Wildcat freshman quarterback Willie Tuitama threw an ill advised pass that was picked off by DeWayne Holyfield. Not only did the Wildcats lose the ball but Tuitama injured his throwing shoulder on the play and would not return to the game.

Ironically enough ASU lost their starting quarterback last year to a shoulder injury in the fourth quarter.

Injuries crushed the Wildcats chances. After a stellar first half offensively, the Cats managed just three points, but lost Tuitama, Brad Wood, Mike Bell and Gilbert Harris. The team's leading receiver Mike Thomas suited up and played with a soft cast on his hand but never had a pass thrown to him.

The Wildcats came in with the attitude that "Arizona would not beat Arizona" but the Wildcats made too many critical errors to escape with the win. Two bad snaps really hurt the team on special teams. A high snap sailed over punter Nick Folk's head and a safety for the Sun Devils. Later in the first half a bad snap on a field goal attempt forced holder Ryan Eidson to run with the ball and he came far short of the first down.

Folk also missed a long field goal attempt in the first half.

The second half saw just one special teams error but it was the costliest of the game. All day long the Wildcats kept the ball out of punt returner Terry Richardson's hands but a line drive punt in the fourth quarter gave the Devils time to set up a Richardson scooted 72 yards for the score. The two-point conversion was good and the game was suddenly tied at 20.

Offensively the Wildcats left points on the board. Chris Henry appeared to be on his way to a long score. All he had to do was out run two linebackers but when turning up field he stepped on the sideline.

Also in the third quarter Gilbert Harris dropped a pass that would have been a sure touchdown as he had gotten behind the entire Sun Devil defense.

The Cats amassed over 200 yards of total offense in the first half. Bell rushed for 116 yards, but had 110 yards at the half and a deep thigh contusion cost him most of the second half of his final collegiate game.

Down by a baseball score of 5-3, the Wildcats cracked the endzone first. The Cats used a little razzle dazzle to get deep into Sun Devil territory when they threw bubble screen to Anthony Johnson. The pass was actually a lateral and the former high school quarterback threw a wobbly pass to Mike Bell for a big 34-yard gain. A few plays later Tuitama found fellow freshman Travis Bell in the endzone for the seven-yard score. Arizona's redzone play has been an adventure at times this year, but the Cats ran it three times inside the five, with the fifth time being the charm. Bell took a quick pitch to the left side, got a block from Chris Henry and leaped into the endzone for the two-yard score.

The Sun Devils finally got on the board using nice, ball control drive. Carpenter finally found his rhythm and Rudy Burgess capped the drive with an seven-yard run up the middle.

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