Sept. 14, 2002
by Travis Breedlove, ASU Sports Information
After coming back last week in the second half to beat a tough UCF team the Sun Devils (3-1) wanted to put together a complete game against the Aztecs of San Diego State (0-3). The Aztecs were coming off two tough losses and new Coach Tom Craft was debuting his high power offense in front of the home crowd for the first time. Things did not start off how the visiting Sun Devils had wanted, however, but another second half comeback and the improved play of quarterback Andrew Walter sparked the offense and would allow them to come back from a 22 point deficit to win the game 39-28.
SDSU started with the ball and the two teams traded punts before the Aztecs would try to put some points on the board first. On their second possession San Diego State would march the ball down the field 49-yards starting on their own 24-yard line to attempt a 45-yard Tommy Kirovski field goal. However, the attempt would be wide left and leave the teams stuck at 0-0.
The Sun Devil offense would again struggle and have to punt it back to the Aztecs. SDSU would start at their own nine-yard line and pick up three first downs on their way to driving 91-yards for a touchdown. The key play in the drive happened when an Adam Hall pass, intended for WR Ronn Davenport, was batted into the air and caught by Kassim Osgood for a 29-yard gain, turning a third and ten into a first down at the Sun Devil 45-yard line. Hall would then complete another long pass of 41-yards to J.R. Tolver bringing the SDSU offense to the three-yard line. Kirovski missed the extra point attempt leaving the score 6-0 in favor of San Diego State.
The Sun Devil offense would again have to punt the ball away after its next possession. SDSU would start with good field position at their own 42-yard line and their offense would pick up where they left off completing a Hall to Truvillion pass for 18-yards and an Aztecs first down. The ASU defense would hold them there though recording their first sack of QB Adam Hall by Brett Hudson for a loss of five yards. San Diego State would try to increase their lead going for it on fourth and eight, but failing on an incomplete pass.
ASU would again have trouble moving the ball down the field completing five plays for a net loss of two yards before punting it back to SDSU. The teams would trade punts again before San Diego State would get possession again.
On their own 24-yard line Hall would throw a 31-yard pass to Tolver putting the Aztecs in Sun Devil territory at the ASU 45-yard line. Hall would again add to his passing totals of 516 yards by hitting Tolver again for a 38-yard pass bring the ball to the ASU six-yard line and another SDSU first down. Two plays latter Hall would complete a six-yard pass to Osgood for another touchdown. Aztec kicker Brian Simnjanovski would come in to try the extra point, but would fail leaving the Sun Devils trailing 12-0.
San Diego State would again get the ball on downs with a short field and again Hall would complete a pass to Aztec WR J.R. Tolver for 17-yards and another SDSU touchdown. Kirovski would make the extra point this time and San Diego State would take a 19-0 lead.
On ASU's next series QB Chad Christensen would fumble the ball at their own 15-yard line. San Diego State would capitalize on the mistake and convert a Kirovski field goal to go up 22-0.
Head Coach Dirk Koetter had a decision to make before ASU started its next series with the offense struggling for most of the first half. "When they scored to go ahead 22-0, I was almost embarrassed to ask Andrew if he wanted to go in," said Koetter. "We were standing about 15-yards from each other. We made eye contact and he nodded, like saying, `It's time.'" Andrew Walter would come into the game with the hope that he would spark the Sun Devil offense. He not only sparked the offense he lit a fire under them as he wasted little time taking his first snap and completing a 72-yard touchdown pass to WR Shawn McDonald. Mike Barth would add the extra point, but ASU still trailed 22-7.
"After that first touchdown, everybody knew we were going to get a road win," said McDonald. The Sun Devils were on to a comeback as the defense held the Aztecs again allowing Walter to perform magic.
Walter took his second snap from center in the game,, and just like the first threw a touchdown pass to McDonald this time from 33-yards. Barth would again add the extra point cutting the SDSU lead to eight. The score would remain 22-14 in favor of the Aztecs going into half time.
"Once the second touchdown came, momentum just started rolling. The defense played better and the offense was making plays," McDonald said. "That's all we needed. I just go out there and try to make plays, just do what I can do to contribute."
Andrew Walter had more offense alone than the team had combined in the first half going two of five for 105 yards and two touchdowns. McDonald said of Walter, "him going in really gave us a spark. We know when he goes in he's giving up a chance."
The Sun Devil offense would continue to march down the field in the second half taking their opening drive 71-yards in eight plays for a Mike Barth field goal to close the gap at 22-17.
The teams would trade punts again several times. The ASU special teams would help out as Tim Parker punted the ball 37-yards and had it downed at the Aztec seven-yard line. With the Sun Devil defense fired up they stopped the Aztecs on downs the forced them into a fourth and seven from their own ten. Special teams would again help as Jamar Williams would block a punt and Matt Miller would recover it in the end zone for another Sun Devil touchdown. "It just opened up and I ht my assignment. It was basically routine for me," said Williams on the blocked punt. With the score tied at 22 Dirk Koetter elected to go for a two-point conversion and a Walter to Mike Karney pass would put ASU up 25-22. The Sun Devils had just overcome a 22-point deficit and added 25 unanswered points to take the lead.
San Diego State would take their next possession down the field 68 yards thanks to a Hall pass to Tolver for 41-yards and another for 27-yards. This would set up a Kirovski field goal to tie the score at 25-25.
The Walter to McDonald connection would again prove deadly. The Aztecs watched as Cornell Canidate would rush for a 31-yard carry setting up the Walter touchdown. McDonald would catch the 29-yard pass from Andrew Walter and Mike Barth would add the extra point putting the Sun Devils up for good 32-25.
San Diego State would start their next drive as the third quarter came to an end trailing the Sun Devils 32-25. As the fourth quarter started J.R. Tolver would add to his game totals of 296 receiving yards by catching a 33-yard pass from Hall to the ASU 17-yard line. The ASU defense would not allow another touchdown however, as SDSU had to settle for a Kirovski field goal to conclude the Aztec's scoring on the night and the score at 32-28 in favor of the visiting Devils.
ASU special teams would help with the last seven points scored by the Sun Devils as a Tim Parker punt was fumble by Tolver and recovered by Jamar Williams leading to an eventual Walter to McDonald 16-yard touchdown pass. Barth would again add the extra putting the score at 39-28 in favor of ASU.
In looking back at the game Coach Koetter said, "we just made enough plays when we needed to. We got our butts kicked in the first half, but we got a huge play on a blocked punt and started getting our return game going a little bit better in the second half."
"I don't know what it is about us and the second half," Terrell Suggs said. "We're just a very good second-half team. They outplayed us in the first half, then we came in here and played Sun Devil football and got the `W.'"
GAME NOTES: Terrell Suggs sack in the third quarter moved him into a tie with Vernon Maxwell for second on the all-time career sack list with 28...The 516 passing yards given up to the Aztecs is the most since a 1996 meeting against Oregon (468 yards)...Shaun McDonald tied a school mark for four TD catches in a game most recently set by him versus Louisiana-Lafayette last year...The 72-yard TD pass McDonald caught from Andrew Walter in the second quarter was the longest career reception for and longest career completion respectively for both...Matt Miller made his first Sun Devil reception for 44-yards...The Sun Devils recorded their first road victory under Coach Dirk Koetter...Jamar Williams blocked punt returned for a touchdown marked ASU's first since November 1994 by Damien Richardson against Arizona...the 22 point deficit was the largest come from behind win the Sun Devils have had in their history, the previous mark was 21 points in 1996 to UCLA when the Devils trailed 28-7 in the second quarter only to be led by Jake Plummer to win 42-34.