Arizona scorches Sun Devils, 31-10 - East Valley Tribune: News

Arizona scorches Sun Devils, 31-10

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Posted: Saturday, December 6, 2008 7:15 pm | Updated: 11:59 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

TUCSON - As they tried to leave the field on Saturday night, Arizona State football players were engulfed by a red-clad swarm of happy Arizona fans, some with words and gestures that threatened to provoke confrontation.

SLIDESHOW: ASU vs. U of A

TUCSON - As they tried to leave the field on Saturday night, Arizona State football players were engulfed by a red-clad swarm of happy Arizona fans, some with words and gestures that threatened to provoke confrontation.

Bordow: Fitting end to dismal season for Devils

SLIDESHOW: ASU vs. U of A

Morgan: Carpenter’s hope for great final season ends in agony

ASU football notebook: Sun Devils’ offense sputters again

Cats earn winning mark at expense of rival

At the desk for FSN Arizona’s postgame show, ASU product Juan Roque wore a somber facial expression under an Arizona cap, the result of losing a pregame bet with his fellow analyst, former offensive lineman and ex-Wildcat Glenn Parker.

That was the scene amid the story line at Arizona Stadium: A Sun Devil season that almost never went as planned was put out of its misery with a 31-10 defeat against the archrival Wildcats. With a 5-7 record — the team’s first losing season since 2003 — ASU did not qualify for a bowl game.

Coach Dennis Erickson was not about to argue that his team deserved a postseason trip.

“A record of 5-7 isn’t good, I don’t care what anybody says,” Erickson said. “People who try to make 5-7 look good came from a different school than I came from. We’re disappointed. I’m happy about the young players. We made some progress with them, but the overall picture was not good.”

Thanks to their biggest win in the series since a 30-6 victory in 1964, Arizona (7-5 overall, 5-4 Pac-10) will play in the Dec. 20 Las Vegas Bowl — their first postseason game since 1998 — against a Mountain West team, either Brigham Young or Texas Christian.

The Wildcats ended a three-game losing streak against ASU.

“We have been so close to getting something going in a positive direction,” fifth-year coach Mike Stoops said. “Every time we get there, we kind of stumble. This win is significant. … This has not been an easy journey, but I think we may be there.”

With a 4-5 Pac-10 record, the Sun Devils finished in a tie for sixth in the conference with Stanford, although they defeated the Cardinal on Sept. 6. The next week, ASU was stunned by Nevada-Las Vegas, sending it into a spiral that it did not recover from .

“It’s tough to go from 10-3 (last season) to missing a bowl game,” linebacker Mike Nixon said. “We didn’t take care of business on a consistent basis. We had a tough stretch after the UNLV game. That was the game that kept us out of a bowl. It came back to haunt us.

“We’re not used to being home at Christmas. Hopefully, we won’t have that feeling again.”

The lost season ended in fitting fashion, as the Sun Devils sputtered on offense — again — mustering just 162 yards. As was the case against UCLA last week, none of ASU’s points were truly generated by the offense.

A second-quarter field goal was set up by a long kickoff return by Kyle Williams.

The lone touchdown came after one of those bizarre, fluke plays that seem to happen in rivalry games. Standing to punt at Arizona’s 19-yard line, Keenyn Crier got a low snap and bent to retrieve it, with his right knee touching the ground. With the ball in his hand, Crier was called down, giving ASU possession.

Five plays later, quarterback Rudy Carpenter hit tight end Andrew Pettes with a 2-yard touchdown pass, and the Sun Devils led 10-7 at halftime.

Was fate smiling on ASU?

No. A third-quarter stampede by Arizona turned a three-point ASU halftime lead into a rout.

“They came out in the second half and played extremely well,” Erickson said. “We couldn’t answer it.”

On its first possession of the second half, Arizona marched 70 yards in 12 plays for a touchdown, as quarterback Willie Tuitama threaded a 10-yard pass between ASU defenders to receiver Delashaun Dean.

ASU responded with authority, finally showing some life on offense by marching to the Arizona 33 in just three plays. But Carpenter was pressured and threw over the middle, where cornerback Marquis Hundley intercepted the pass and returned it to the ASU 34.

“That was a big turning point, obviously,” said Carpenter, who was 13 of 31 for 124 yards and was denied being the first ASU quarterback to go 4-0 against Arizona. “We were terrible on offense. There’s no other way to put it.”

Tailback Nic Grigsby ended the short drive by, after finding the middle clogged, juking to the right and into the clear for a 12-yard score run that made it 21-10.

The third Arizona touchdown of the quarter was the most electrifying, bringing most of the announced crowd of 58,704 into ecstasy. Receiver Mike Thomas fielded Thomas Weber’s punt over his shoulder at his own 48 and sprinted left, where blockers were set up, down the sideline and into the end zone for a back-breaking score.

“They came out and got the momentum on their side,” Nixon said.

Thomas, who had a game-high nine receptions for 75 yards, won the Bob Moran Most Valuable Player Award, named after the former Tribune sports writer who died in March after a lengthy battle with cancer.

The losing record is just the fourth of Erickson’s 19-year collegiate career, along with 1987 at Washington State (3-7-1), 2001 at Oregon State (5-6) and 2006 at Idaho (4-8).

“When you get kicked in the mouth like we have,” Erickson said, “after it is all said and done, hopefully you learn something.”

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