EVANSTON, Ill. (AP) -- Arizona State contained Northwestern's
potent passing attack and showed again that it has a pretty fair
one of its own.
As a result, the Sun Devils are 2-0 after a 30-21 victory
Saturday and quarterback Andrew Walter is within four touchdowns of
Jake Plummer's school record for career TD passes.
Walter had a second straight game of three touchdown throws to
give the senior a total of 61. He sounded disappointed, though,
that there weren't more against the porous Northwestern defense.
"For the most part we were able to make some plays. But we left
some big plays out there," he said. "I feel good about being 2-0;
I don't feel good because we could have played better."
After completing just two of his first 11 attempts, Walter
heated up in the second quarter with a pair of long scoring passes
to Derek Hagan that gave the Sun Devils the lead for good. Then he
hit Terry Richardson for a third-quarter touchdown that gave them a
commanding 17-point advantage.
Jesse Ainsworth kicked two of his three field goals in the final
period as Arizona State held off a Northwestern rally.
"Watching film on them all week we knew we could make some big
plays and that's what we did today," said Hagan. The junior
wideout had eight receptions for 154 yards -- his fifth straight
game with 100 receiving yards and at least one touchdown.
The Wildcats (0-2) failed to get into the end zone through the
air after entering the game with the nation's leaders in passing
and receiving from the previous week's 48-45 loss at TCU.
Brett Basanez finished 21-for-38 for 238 yards -- less than half
of the school-record 513 passing yards he had in the opener -- and
was held to just 75 yards in the first half when the Wildcats fell
behind for good. Jonathan Fields, who had 202 receiving yards a
week earlier, was limited to just 32 yards on five catches.
"They made some big plays and those always hurt," said
Northwestern coach Randy Walker. "They made plays and we didn't."
The Wildcats produced more on the ground than they did through
the air, including Noah Herron's 105 yards and a touchdown on 17
carries, and 85 yards and a TD from Terrell Jordan. But Arizona
State not only partially offset that with 108 yards from tailback
Loren Wade, the Sun Devils laid numerous crunching hits on their
hosts and recovered all three of the game's fumbles, including the
game-breaker in the fourth quarter.
Northwestern was on the move and threatening to score the
go-ahead touchdown with less than eight minutes remaining when
safety Riccardo Stewart jarred the ball loose from Jordan. Ishmael
Thrower recovered at the Arizona State 18 and the Sun Devils went
on a game-clinching 81-yard march culminating in Ainsworth's
18-yard field goal with 1:19 left.
"Riccardo's play was huge," said Arizona State coach Dirk
Koetter. "He and the rest of our defense had hit tremendously all
game, and that play was definitely the turning point for us."
After Ainsworth's 20-yard field goal opened the scoring late in
the first quarter, Northwestern answered with an 80-yard scoring
drive featuring Herron, who capped it off with runs of 22 yards and
then a 9-yard TD burst.
Hagan then found holes in the Wildcats' shaky secondary to score
twice. The wideout was left all alone in the middle on a 47-yard
catch-and-run play that gave the Sun Devils the lead. Six minutes
later, he sprinted straight toward the end zone on third-and-11
from the 41 and caught a perfectly placed pass from Walter to make
it 17-7 at halftime.
Arizona State appeared to be running away with the game when
Richardson lunged into the end zone to grab a 30-yard touchdown
pass for a 24-7 lead midway through the third quarter.
But Northwestern, still patiently relying on its running game,
came back with a pair of touchdowns. Jordan ran 25 yards for a TD
and Basanez scored on a 13-yard keeper to cut it to 24-21 after
red-shirt freshman Reggie McPherson recovered an onside kick on the
fly for the Wildcats.
Ainsworth's 41-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter
boosted the lead back to six points before the key late turnover.
"They won the turnover ratio which I thought was a huge aspect
of this game," Walker said. "It wasn't the most passionate
football (by Northwestern) and that's my fault."