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Analysis: Injuries or not, stagnant fourth quarter equals Devilish victory

Kyle Kensing
staff writer
By Kyle Kensing
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday, November 28, 2005
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Maelstrom of Wildcat miscues leads to upsetting rivalry flop


All it took was one play.

In a matter of seconds, ASU wide receiver Terry Richardson returned a Nick Folk punt 71 yards for a touchdown, erasing a 20-12 Arizona lead and sewing up the Ben Goo Most Valuable Player honors for the 2005 Territorial Cup rivalry game, a 23-20 Sun Devils win.

"(ASU) pinned us," said Arizona head coach Mike Stoops. "They ran a sideline return, and we just didn't react very well to it."

Richardson's score led to a successful two-point conversion strike from quarterback Rudy Carpenter to tight end Zach Miller and brought ASU back from a 20-5 third-quarter deficit.

ASU played good, but I think we should have came out on top. ... I think it would have turned out differently if me and (Tuitama) had stayed in the game.

- Mike Bell


"We must have worked on the two-point play 20 times in practice," Stoops said. "Then we didn't execute."

The play also ignited an otherwise stoic Sun Devil Stadium crowd, which had little to cheer about through the first half, as the visiting Wildcats built a 17-5 lead and moved the ball seemingly at will.

Behind freshman quarterback Willie Tuitama and senior running back Mike Bell, Arizona found the end zone twice in the second quarter.

Tuitama connected with freshman tight end Travis Bell for a 7-yard touchdown with 12:42 left in the half, and Mike Bell followed suit four minutes later with a leaping 1-yard scoring run, his fifth of the season.

Game summary

Arizona 20 - ASU 23

Score by quarter
Arizona (3-7, 2-5 Pac-10)
1st quarter: 3
2nd quarter: 14
3rd quarter: 3
4th quarter: 0
Final: 20
ASU (6-5, 4-4)
1st quarter: 5
2nd quarter: 0
3rd quarter: 7
4th quarter: 11
Final: 23

Offensive stats
Passing Yards: 246
Rushing Yards: 123
RB Rudy Burgess:
15 carries, 83 yards, touchdown; 5 catches, 47 yards
Passing Yards: 213
Rushing Yards: 164
QB Willie Tuitama:
15-of-21, 149 yards, touchdown, interception
RB Mike Bell:
27 carries, 117 yards, touchdown
WR Syndric Steptoe:
6 catches, 86 yards; 6 carries, 61 yards

Defensize stats
LB Zach Cantanese: 11 tackles (game high)
CB Wilrey Fontenont: 9 tackles

"We were running the ball well, and you could tell Mike was just having one of those games," Stoops said of his senior tailback, who accrued 100 yards rushing in the first half of his final collegiate outing.

"He was on his way to a big day," Stoops said.

Bell's big day came to an abrupt end on the fourth play of the third quarter.

On an off-tackle run, Bell took a hit to his thigh that made him a nonfactor for the remainder of the afternoon.

"I took a direct shot," said Bell, who finished with 117 yards, putting him at 952 on the season and within double-digits of the 1,000-yard mark for the third consecutive season.

"A lot of the time, I wasn't even watching the game," he said. "I was focusing on getting my leg ready."

The hobbled Bell attempted a return, but was unable to play after receiving a second hit to the thigh early in the fourth.

His absence left a hole in the offense Arizona could not patch. Sophomore Chris Henry rushed for 36 yards in place of senior Gilbert Harris, who was hobbled by a groin strain, as the Sun Devil defense kept Arizona out of the end zone in the second half.

Tuitama, meanwhile, felt the pressure of a depleted running game. He ended the day with 149 yards on 15-of-21 passing and was shelved in the fourth quarter after a blitz by Zach Catanese, who ended with a game-high 11 tackles.

Tuitama threw an interception on the play and fell hard on his throwing shoulder, forcing backup Richard Kovalcheck to see action for the first time since he was pulled from the lineup Oct. 22 against Oregon.

"I was pressured and just tried to get rid of it," Tuitama said.

As Arizona was losing its offensive footing, ASU started gaining its own.

Sophomore running back Rudy Burgess rushed for a team-high 83 yards, 56 of which came in the second half, including a third-quarter touchdown run and a 16-yard pickup for a first down on the final drive of the game that helped seal the Wildcats' fate.

Burgess' run placed the Sun Devils at the 1-yard line with less than a minute remaining, setting up a 20-yard game-winning field goal by Jesse Ainsworth.

Bell said the ending left a bitter taste in his mouth.

"ASU played good, but I think we should have came out on top," he said. "I think it would have turned out differently if me and (Tuitama) had stayed in the game."

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