November 8, 2008

ASU returns to win column at Washington

After two months, Arizona State stopped the freefall.

Following six straight losses ASU got back in the win column at Washington on Saturday, avoiding what would have been the team's longest losing streak ever.

The Sun Devils headed to Husky Stadium having not won a football game since Sept. 6, and it showed as they had a somewhat sloppy outing in their 39-19 victory.

Coach Dennis Erickson took note of the mistakes his team made throughout the game, but the only thing that really mattered to him was the fact that his team finally got a win and appears to be headed back in the right direction.

"We'll take any win after six losses. It's just good to get that feeling back, it's been a while," said Erickson, who recorded his first career win at Husky Stadium. "We had some penalties which hurt us but then again we dropped some interceptions too.

"They gave us everything we wanted, obviously, and we were able to do some things in the fourth quarter and win the game. It's nice to have that win."

The players have said all along they still believe this team can make a bowl game, and technically it still can.

If ASU wins all of its remaining four games, it would finish the season 6-6 and be bowl eligible.

"It's been the longest two months of my life," quarterback Rudy Carpenter said. "It's been terrible. You know, it's just the course our season has taken this year and I'm happy our guys have hung in there and not quit and practiced hard and played hard."

As they have over the past two months, inconsistency, mental mistakes and missed opportunities once again plagued the Sun Devils early on.

The second half though, was another story.

The defense was finally making the big, late-in-the-game plays that secure victories and the offense resembled the same group that won 10 games a year ago in that second half.

The Sun Devil defense clamped down in the final two quarters holding Washington to just six points while forcing one interception and a safety.

And after not scoring an offensive touchdown in the first two quarters, the Sun Devils' offense made its way into the end zone three times in the final 30 minutes of the game.

"Oh, it was great," said wide receiver Mike Jones, who had two touchdowns receptions. "In the first half, they played a couple things that we didn't expect, so we had to make some adjustments at halftime and came out on fire."

This was a win the Sun Devils knew they needed, and it could restore some confidence in a group that had been a little down lately.

"We haven't won in like two months, and it was great to be with my teammates singing the fight song in the locker room just now," Jones said. "I'm just excited."

ASU's ground game finally seemed to be clicking Saturday as the Sun Devils rushed for a season-high 182 yards on the night.

Keegan Herring was the high man with 144 yards on 22 carries and one touchdown.

Shaun DeWitty, who received his second consecutive start, totaled 47 yards on 12 carries.

"Any time we can run we're a lot better," Erickson said.

Carpenter put up solid numbers completing 22 of 31 attempts, including one to himself, and amassed 218 yards. However, Carpenter often times held onto the ball too long in the pocket and was sacked two times and was knocked down all night.

Along with his two scores, Jones was the Sun Devils' top receiver with 11 receptions for 146 yards.

"Mike made a lot of big plays," Carpenter said. "They were playing off of him, so they were giving us chances to open up the field and run some comebacks and some stuff like that. We need things to go our way, and we need guys like Mike to make big plays for us, and that's what happened tonight."

As strong as ASU closed the game, it was almost equally as weak early on.

The Washington offense sustained several long drives in the first half and the Sun Devils did not score an offensive touchdown in the first half despite entering the red zone three times.

The Sun Devils did however get into the end zone on a 41-yard fumble recovery by safety Troy Nolan on the first play of the second quarter.

Heading into halftime, ASU had a narrow 16-13 lead.

After the break Washington took the opening kickoff back to the ASU 28-yard line and scored a field goal to tie it up.

Then, the wheels appeared to be coming off for ASU.

Following a three-and-out, the Huskies blocked a punt and took over at the ASU 14-yard line before taking the lead on another field goal.

But almost seven minutes later, Carpenter threw his first touchdown pass of the night to Jones giving ASU a lead it wouldn't relinquish.

After ASU took the lead, its offense tacked on two more scores with Jones' second touchdown reception coming early in the fourth quarter, and on a 29-yard touchdown run by Herring with less than seven minutes remaining in the game.

The defense earned a safety when Washington quarterback Ronnie Fouch was flagged for intentional grounding while in the end zone.

In all, the ASU defense forced three turnovers.

Along with Nolan's fumble recovery, linebackers Mike Nixon and Travis Goethel each had an interception.

The Sun Devils gained 400 yards on offense compared to the Huskies' 279.

As they did a week ago at Oregon State, the Sun Devils committed a lot of penalties as they were flagged 12 times for 92 yards. Four of those penalties were charged to defensive end Luis Vasquez for offsides.

One thing that may go unnoticed, but could be a major factor as to why the offense turned things around, was inserting Garth Gerhart at center midway through the game.

After gaining some confidence with this win, the Sun Devils have another winnable game next Saturday when they face one-win Washington State at home.

...More... To continue reading this article you must be a member. Sign Up Now!