Sun Devils Top Tar Heels On Final Play

Oct 18, 2003

By Nate Policar
ASU Sports Information

The Arizona State Sun Devils (4-3) arrived in Chapel Hill looking for retribution from last year, when they narrowly lost to the North Carolina Tar Heels (1-6) in the final seconds of the game in Tempe. This time, on UNC's home turf, the Sun Devils made a late comeback to beat the Tar Heels on a 5-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Andrew Walter to senior receiver Skyler Fulton with no time left on the clock.

'This is a game you have to have if you're going to be a good team,' Fulton said. 'A lot of things weren't going for us. We could've folded up. We kept believing. That's the sign of a good team.'

The Sun Devils went to work early on the UNC defense, giving the ball to sophomore tailback Hakim Hill, who brought it into North Carolina territory. From there, Walter was able to find sophomore receiver Derek Hagan open for a pass that stretched 49 yards, resulting in a Sun Devil touchdown and a 6-0 lead.

North Carolina countered right back, alternating the run and the pass. Moving the ball 65 yards in 5:54, the Tar Heels scored their first touchdown on a 1-yard rush by tailback Ronnie McGill and grabbed the lead 7-6.

ASU took over following the kickoff near their own 20-yard line and started moving the ball down field once again. On the fourth play of the drive, however, a Sun Devil fumble behind the line of scrimmage gave the ball back to UNC. On the next play, the Tar Heels scored on an 11-yard rush by tailback Chad Scott, making the score 14-6.

The Sun Devils began the second quarter by forcing a North Carolina turnover. Junior cornerback R.J. Oliver forced a fumble by UNC fullback Willie Parker and ASU senior Brian Montesanto recovered the ball on the ASU 20-yard line. The ensuing drive was capped by an 11-yard touchdown pass from Walter to Fulton. Walter completed a pass to Hagan on the conversion attempt, making the score 14-14.

With 11:14 remaining in the second quarter, the Sun Devils mounted another drive. Just nine yards away from another seven points, the Sun Devils were whistled for a false start and a holding penalty, forcing ASU to settle for a field goal. True freshman kicker Jesse Ainsworth split the uprights from 21 yards to give the Sun Devils a 17-14 lead.

Following a stalled drive by the Sun Devils, Tim Parker's 40-yard punt was fumbled by North Carolina receiver Mike Mason and recovered by Hagan, resulting in ASU possession on the UNC 12-yard line. The Sun Devils called on Ainsworth, this time from 24 yards out, and he gave the Sun Devils a 20-14 lead to take to halftime as the first half clock expired.

North Carolina took over on a short kickoff to open the second half of play. Quarterback Darian Durant led the Tar Heel offense down the field but their drive stalled. Forced to kick, North Carolina place kicker Dan Orner hit a 50-yard field goal to narrow the gap to 20-17 in favor of the Sun Devils.

Andrew Walter took the reins of the Sun Devil offense with 8:32 left in the third quarter and led them 67 yards for a touchdown. After a series of completions, Hakim Hill carried the ball the rest of the way, eventually scoring a touchdown on an eight-yard run. The Sun Devils had expanded their lead to 27-17, however it was short-lived. A UNC touchdown run by McGill, narrowed the gap to 27-24 as the teams headed to the fourth quarter of play.

ASU looked to pad their lead as the fourth quarter began, but instead saw the opposite occur. Once again, with a first-and-goal opportunity on the drive, the Sun Devils saw their drive stalled by a penalty, flagged for a holding infraction on the UNC five-yard line. Forced to kick, Ainsworth's 32-yard attempt went wide, giving the Tar Heels possession on their own 20-yard line. The home team marched 80 yards, culminating with a one-yard pass for a touchdown, regaining the lead for the Tar Heels at 31-27 with 7:43 remaining in the game.

The Sun Devils tried to counter but failed on two drives. On the Tar Heels final possession, they ran the ball and forced Arizona State to use their remaining timeouts, running the block down to 50 seconds. From midfield, Tar Heel punter John Lafferty punted away to the Sun Devils with victory apparently in tow for North Carolina. However, the Sun Devils refused to say die. Lightfoot began by returning Lafferty's punt 28 yards to the ASU 39-yard line with 36 seconds left on the clock. Walter, using a hurry-up offense, completed a 14-yard pass to Matt Miller on the UNC 47-yard line before stopping the clock. Walter then found Hagan for a 42-yard gain to move the ball down to the North Carolina 5-yard line.

With a field goal being of no help for the Sun Devils, Walter tried for the end zone, but a pass to Skyler Fulton fell incomplete with all but a few seconds left to play. Walter took the final snap from center and, as the game clock hit 0:00, threw the ball again in the direction of Fulton. This time Fulton made an acrobatic catch for the 5-yard reception and the touchdown. Erupting in celebration, the Sun Devils had secured a 33-31 victory to defeat the Tar Heels and pick up their first road win of the 2003 season.

'I've never been a part of anything like this,' Walter said. 'If it ever happens again, it's a one-in-a-million chance, because it's awesome. It's so sweet.'

SUN DEVIL GAME NOTES: Fulton's five-yard catch with no time left marked the first time that the Sun Devils had won a game on the last play since they beat Washington State, 23-20, on Oct. 21, 2000, when kicker Mike Barth hit a 49-yard field goal in overtime... Derek Hagan set career highs for catches (11) and yards (185) and became just the seventh Sun Devil in history to record 11+ receptions in a game... Hagan has turned in three consecutive 100-yard receiving games, the last Sun Devil to accomplish that was St. Louis Ram Shaun McDonald, who was also the last to accomplish it in four straight games... The Sun Devils have scored on 14 of their last 15 trips into the red zone, going 5-for-6 against UNC... The Sun Devils improved to 236-43-5 (.840) all-time when they have had a player gain 100 or more rushing yards in a game (Loren Wade gained 130 yards).

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