"(Williams) played well and they gained control of the line of scrimmage," said Arizona coach John Mackovic. "Early in the game he got some runs around the corner that really hurt us. He was a real workhorse."
The Sun Devils used a number of long drives to punish the Wildcat defense. The Sun Devils ground out 10 or more plays on drive after drive, punishing the Wildcat defense. The already thin Wildcats' defense just couldn't hold back ASU any longer and repeated a season long trend of fading in the second half against physical opponents.
"They ran almost 30 more plays than we did," said Mackovic. "The offense doesn't get tired, they get energized. It's the defense that gets tired."
The game was sloppy, featuring eight turnovers and 23 penalties.
Although Arizona said goodbye to a number of seniors, it was the young players who had big games. Freshman runner Mike Bell had 70 yards on just 12 carries, while Beau Carr scored a pair of touchdowns. True freshman receiver Biren Ealy reeled in the Wildcats' lone touchdown reception.
"This felt like this is the healthiest I've been in a long time," said Bell.
The Wildcats said goodbye to a pair of their best offensive players. Jason Johnson ended his Wildcat career as the single season passing leader. His final game was a mixed bag as he threw for 269 yards, but Johnson also threw three interceptions.
"I'm proud of the way we fought today," said Johnson. "They just made plays down the stretch and wore us down a little bit."
Bobby Wade leaves as one of the best receivers in school history. He had six catches for 109 yards, just 34 yards short of the single season yardage record. Wade's 93 catches during the season are a single-season record.
Special teams came to haunt the Wildcats again. A low snap to Danny Baugher allowed ASU's Joey Smith the time he needed to come right up the middle and block the punt. The Sun Devils took over at the Wildcat 11 yard line. The Wildcats defense stopped Williams on the ground twice and Walter's pass attempt to Mike Pinkard was off the mark. The Sun Devils settled for a Mike Barth chip-shot and started the scoring with a 3-0 lead.
The Wildcats' confidence was not shaken in the least. Beau Carr's second-effort allowed him to squirm into the end zone for a one-yard touchdown to cap a 70-yard drive. Johnson hit Wade on a 20-yard slant pattern, then went deep to Lance Relford for a 42 yard gain to set up Carr's touchdown run.
Two turnovers on successive plays kept the momentum swinging like a pendulum. Ray Wells continued the big plays he showcased against Cal. The senior picked off a Walters pass at the Sun Devil 32 and returned it to the two-yard line before he was knocked out of bounds. Arizona attempted to go back to Carr on the next play, but Terrell Suggs stripped the ball loose and the Sun Devils regained possession at their own four-yard line.
After a false start on first down, the Devils moved the ball methodically down the field. ASU took the momentum and kept it, marching 98 yards for a touchdown. . Walter managed a big third-down conversion when he found his tight end on third and long, despite being leveled by Spencer Larsen. The Sun Devils mixed run and pass and easily marched to the Wildcat five-yard line. Williams took a handoff and beat everyone to the corner for the score, giving the Sun Devils a 10-7 lead.
Following the touchdown, the Wildcats stole the momentum back with another interception, but ASU stopped Arizona three and out and took over at midfield. The Devils converted two third downs, but faced third and five from the Wildcat 20-yard line. Walter attempted to hit Daryl Lightfoot in the end zone, but he hung up the pass and another senior, David Hinton out-jumped Lightfoot and came down with the football.
Arizona went to the air to move down the field, but it was the ground game that put the ball in the end zone. Johnson found four different receivers on the drive. Johnson had completions of 24, 18 and nine yards before finding Justin Levasseur for a 23-yard gain to the Sun Devil five. On the next play Mackovic gave Carr another shot and the freshman runner scooted five yards for the score. Sean Keel missed the extra point and Arizona had the 13-10 lead.
A bad personal foul gave ASU the ball in good position with less than a minute remaining before the half. After a completion put the Sun Devils into Arizona territory, Walter looked deep to Shaun McDonald. The All-Pac-10 receiver had a step on the defender but took his eye off the ball and dropped what appeared to be a sure touchdown. After two more incomplete passes the Devils tried to go for it on fourth down, but Copeland Bryan dropped Walter for a nine-yard loss and Arizona took a knee to run out the first-half clock.
ASU took the second half kickoff and wasted little time marching down the field. Walter found three different receivers for 52 yards to get the Devils deep inside UA territory. Then it was Williams who did the dirty work down low. After breaking off a 19-yarder, Williams carried again. Williams spun and broke a pair of tackles to go four yards and give ASU the ball at the one-yard line. The Devils could not convert. Arizona's run defense stopped Williams inches shy of the goal line. After that the UA pass rush took over. On second down Javier Martinez flushed Walter from the pocket. The lanky passer escaped the sack but was forced to throw the ball away. A false start forced the Devils to the air again, and this time Bryan and Joe Siofele sacked Walter, forcing ASU to kick another field goal, which tied the game at 13.
The Cats and Devils played a few rounds of trade the miscue. Arizona started the game when Mike Bell hit the corner and sprinted out for a 22-yard gain. The redshirt freshman failed to tuck the ball away and Solomon Bates stripped it, giving the Devils the ball at their own 47. The very next play ASU's Williams burst for twenty yards, only to have Arizona's Clay Hardt pop the ball loose and give it right back to the Wildcats. Arizona took advantage and breezed down the field on the arm of Johnson. After a pass interference penalty gave Arizona the ball at the 31, Johnson found Wade near the sideline to get Arizona in the red zone. Jawing by both sides saw the Wildcats over react and they were flagged for a 15-yard personal foul, nullifying the Wade reception. On the very next play Bates grabbed Bell's facemask and the flagrant foul put the Wildcats within a yard of the original penalty. Two plays later Johnson found Biren Ealy across the middle for a ten-yard score and a 20-13 lead.
ASU would not be down for long, 4:47 to be exact. The Sun Devils marched 84-yards on 13 plays and capped the drive with a great second effort by Williams. The junior running back was met at the goal line by a host of Wildcats, but twisted, turned and squirmed to get across the goal line on a four-yard score.
Williams struck again, this time giving the Sun Devils a 27-20 lead. Williams continued his hard running, breaking three tackles on his way for an eight yards score. The Devils took over at their own 15 and again moved down the field for a sustained drive. The Devils were able to go underneath on the Wildcat defensive backs who were wary of the long pass.
Things continued to go wrong for the Wildcats. On their first play from scrimmage following the Sun Devil score, a high Johnson pass deflected off of Wade's hands and into the arms of ASU's Jason Shivers. To make matters worse, the Cats were called for a 15-yard facemask after the pick. Williams scored his fourth touchdown three plays later to give ASU the 34-20 lead.