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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    ASU’s big first quarter dooms Cats

    UA quarterback Adam Austin tries to scramble away from the rush of ASU defensive end Dexter Davis in the Wildcats 28-14 loss to the Sun Devils Saturday at Arizona Stadium. After entering the game for injured starting quarterback Willie Tuitama, Austin threw two interceptions and led an ineffective Arizona offense that failed to even drive into ASU territory in the second half.
    UA quarterback Adam Austin tries to scramble away from the rush of ASU defensive end Dexter Davis in the Wildcats’ 28-14 loss to the Sun Devils Saturday at Arizona Stadium. After entering the game for injured starting quarterback Willie Tuitama, Austin threw two interceptions and led an ineffective Arizona offense that failed to even drive into ASU territory in the second half.

    The ASU offense exploded for 21 first-quarter points, and an ineffective Arizona offense – minus its starting quarterback – couldn’t respond, giving the Sun Devils a 28-14 win and their second straight Territorial Cup.

    Quarterback Rudy Carpenter spread the ball around early for ASU (7-5, 4-5 Pacific 10 Conference), hitting three different receivers for scores in the game’s first 15 minutes.

    He finished 16-of-24 with 206 yards and the three scores.

    “”Obviously, we didn’t have a very good plan on either side of the ball, and preparation always starts with me,”” said UA head coach Mike Stoops. “”They just flat beat us across the board. We kind of fought uphill all night.””

    UA quarterback Willie Tuitama went down midway through the second quarter after he was sandwiched between two ASU defenders – linebacker Derron Ware and defensive end Kyle Caldwell – as he was drilled to the ground well after he released the ball.

    Ware was flagged for roughing the passer, and Tuitama, who suffered two concussions earlier this season, was replaced by redshirt senior Adam Austin on the next play and didn’t return.

    Stoops said after the game that Tuitama suffered a slight concussion.

    “”Willie has been playing well,”” Stoops said, “”and for him to take a cheap shot and get knocked out of the game is disappointing for him.””

    The hit angered a number of Wildcats.

    “”It was late,”” Austin said. “”He was going down already, and the guy just came and hit him in the back of the head.””

    Added linebacker Spencer Larsen: “”Until the penalty’s more severe, they’re going to keep taking shots, and I think you’ve got to do something about that.””

    The Sun Devils began taunting Tuitama in pregame warm-ups, Austin said, telling him they “”were going to take him out.””

    “”You heard it, and you just shrug it off, but then they go out and do that,”” Austin said. “”Stuff like that, it could really end people’s careers, and I don’t think it’s right to do stuff like that.””

    The loss snapped a three-game winning streak for the Wildcats (6-6, 4-5).

    “”We made gigantic strides,”” Larsen said. “”We were going in the right direction. We had a big step back (Saturday), but we can learn from it and learn that we are mortal, and even though we’ve played tough these last three games, anything can happen.””

    The Wildcats now sit in a tie for fourth place in the conference with ASU, Oregon and Washington State, but the Sun Devils and Ducks have bowl-selection priority because they have seven wins.

    If six-win UCLA loses to No. 2 USC Saturday, the Bruins would also fall into the tie and would join the Wildcats and Cougars in hoping the Hawaii Bowl picks them for the final bid. The two squads not picked would be left out of the bowl picture altogether, barring any at-large bids.

    “”It’s not in our hands anymore,”” said wideout Syndric Steptoe. “”We had it in our hands (Saturday), but we gave it back to the other people.””

    Arizona cut the deficit to 21-14 on a 22-yard scoring reception from Austin to wideout Mike Thomas just before halftime, but in the second half, the Wildcats’ tank hit empty.

    Austin threw two costly, third-quarter interceptions, including a pass intended for tight end Brad Wood that was tipped and then picked off by ASU defensive lineman David Smith at the Arizona 23-yard line.

    ASU scored four plays later on Dimitri Nance’s 1-yard dive to open its lead to 28-14 with 7:48 to play.

    Early on, the Sun Devils abandoned their ground attack, ranked No. 2 in the Pacific 10 Conference, in favor of a more familiar high-flying passing offense. And did it ever work.

    The Sun Devils opened the game scoring in a hurry, when Carpenter hit wideout Chris McGaha on a 26-yard strike less than four minutes into the game.

    Nine minutes later, ASU scored on a punt-pass option from Carpenter to wideout Jamaal Lewis on fourth-and-eight that confused the Arizona defense.

    “”It was just pandemonium, and we couldn’t figure it out,”” Larsen said.

    Carpenter then hit tight end Zach Miller on a 7-yard play-fake for the three-touchdown lead with 51 seconds to play in the opening frame.

    Arizona responded on the ensuing drive, when Tuitama hit Steptoe on a 5-yard flat early in the second quarter, but it wasn’t enough when the offense hit neutral with Tuitama out.

    “”Things just weren’t going our way, and we had to overcome them,”” Larsen said. “”We had a chance, we just didn’t make the plays that we needed to make.””

    Late hits

    Arizona Stadium was sold out, with a 57,895-strong crowd, bringing the season total to 390,589. That total surpasses the record mark of 387,737 set in 1988, when the team played eight home games… ASU running back Ryan Torain, who ran for 139 yards on 24 carries, was named the game’s MVP.

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