31-28 defeat shocks ASU, dims Sun Devils' spirits

By Craig Sanders

Arizona Daily Wildcat

TEMPE The Arizona State players were silent on the sidelines as the clock ticked away and the final gun sounded. They walked from the field stoic, grim-faced warriors who had somehow lost a battle they seemingly had won.

Most of the men walked with glazed eyes, disbelief etched across their hung heads. Some of them still wanted to compete, their bodies willing to hit something, anything. A scuffle started between a coach and a player in the tunnel leading from the field. It lasted only moments, but it showed the frustration on this team.

A 31-28 loss to rival Arizona would always be a crushing event to ASU, but when that loss comes on the heels of a 28-14 lead with just over seven minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, it can bring some players to their knees.

"This is the worst feeling I've ever had," Sun Devil quarterback Jake Plummer said.

Plummer's glazed look had passed, but then the reality had hit and tears were staining his cheeks. He tried to avoid eye contact with the reporters who surrounded him, their microphones and notepads eager to capture the moment. Yet their reproduction could never quite capture the pain in Plummer's voice.

"It was a hard battle," Plummer said. "They outplayed us in the fourth quarter. They outplayed us when it mattered."

Justin Dragoo, a mainstay in ASU's defense the last four years, looked as if he had just come from a war zone. He resembled a lost child more than a 240-pound linebacker.

"I just kept thinking, 'This isn't happening,'" Dragoo said. "Our team had forgotten how to lose, then we learned how to win. A loss like this ... I just hope I never feel like this again."

All the Sun Devils who visited the media room looked broken. The loss, in what is traditionally the biggest game of the year for both teams, had wiped away any memories of ASU's four-game winning streak or its chance for a bowl berth.

"Somebody had to get us, whether it was now or next season," Sun Devil wide receiver Keith Poole said. "The games (the Wildcats) have won, they've won in the fourth quarter. It's sad, we just have to learn how to win against them."

ASU head coach Bruce Snyder tried to concentrate on the positives, such as the Sun Devils' winning record (6-5), their four-game winning streak in the second half of the season, the returning players, spring ball, next season ...

Yet when it came down to the game, Snyder expressed disappointment only in the outcome, not in the play of his team.

"I'm crushed by the loss," Snyder said, "but I'm proud of this football team. They played hard and they never gave up."

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