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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    ASU’s big first quarter dooms Cats

    The ASU offense exploded for 21 first-quarter points, and an impotent 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 for 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’s 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 warmups, telling him, according to Austin, that 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, we were going in the right direction,”” Larsen said. “”We had a big step back today, 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. Because ASU and Oregon have seven wins, the Sun Devils and Ducks have priority over six-win Washington State and Arizona, meaning the Wildcats’ bowl-hopes rest on the shoulders of UCLA.

    A UCLA loss to No. 3 USC next week would keep the Bruins at six wins, but if UCLA wins, it would get priority as a seven-win team.

    Because the Pac-10 only has six bowl bids, two teams could potentially be left out of the picture, barring any at-large bids.

    “”You’ve just got to hope for the best, you know, hope that the right teams lose and the people make the right decision,”” Larsen said.

    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.

    ASU scored four plays later on running back 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 its 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 to the corner of the end zone to cap a 7-play, 80-yard drive that spanned only 3:28 to take a 7-0 lead with 11:32 to play.

    ASU struck again nine minutes later, this time on a 38-yard pass from Carpenter to wideout Jamaal Lewis on fourth-and-8.

    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 wideout Syndric Steptoe on a 5-yard pass in the flat of the end zone to cut the ASU lead to 21-7 with 11:55 to play in the second quarter.

    Nance added a third-quarter touchdown to cap the scoring.

    “”We didn’t play with the energy you need in a big game like this,”” Stoops said. “”They wanted it more than we did.””

    Late hits

    The sold-out Arizona Stadium of 57,895-strong brought 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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