The Gomez Files: Receivers Have Something To Prove

Oct. 4, 2003

By Brian Gomez

Arizona State's wide receivers were anxious to move the ball down the fieldSaturday, and it wasn't just because the end zones were splattered with maroonand gold paint.

After a disappointing performance last week at Oregon State, the Sun Devilreceiving corps wanted to prove they're some of the more potent threats in thePac-10. Buoyed by sophomore wide receiver Derek Hagan's career afternoon, theyput any doubts about their abilities to rest, despite ASU's 37-17 loss to No.10-ranked Southern California at Sun Devil Stadium.

'That should let everybody know that we do have a passing game,' said Hagan,whose eight receptions and 170 receiving yards were career highs. 'Peopledon't really see what we do in practice. They just see what we do in games. Inpractice, we're working really hard, we're executing and we're making great playsday in and day out.'

Locked in a 10-10 tie coming out of the locker room, the Sun Devils converteda pair of third downs on their opening drive to shift the momentum in theirfavor. Junior quarterback Andrew Walter hit senior wide receiver Skyler Fultonfor a 12-yard gain on third-and-8, moving the ball to the ASU 34-yard line. Onthird-and-20, freshman wide receiver Terry Richardson gained 34 yards aftercatching a perfectly thrown strike from Walter on a post route down thesideline.

The Sun Devils quickly moved the ball deep into USC territory behind Hagan,who turned a simple catch into a 24-yard gain by muscling his way for extrayardage. Freshman tailback Loren Wade then scored on a 1-yard plunge over a pileof linemen after being denied on three straight carries.

'Derek stepped up on a few third downs and made some key catches,' saidWalter, who was 19-for-38 for 305 yards with one touchdown and one interception. 'Ihad him in my hip pocket, sort of. When a guy is making plays, you want totry to feed him the ball as much as you can.'

Sparked by Hagan's 35-yard reception on a pass from Walter, the Sun Devilswasted little time drawing even early in the first quarter. Sophomore tailbackHakim Hill rushed three times for 11 yards to move the ball inside the 20-yardline, before Walter gunned a 12-yard touchdown pass to Fulton.

'If we convert on third down and play hard for 60 minutes, we'll be fine,'said Fulton, who fought his way into the end zone upon catching the ball nearthe goal line.

On ASU's ensuing possession, Hagan hauled in a 17-yard pass from Walter tomove the ball into USC territory, but freshman place-kicker Jesse Ainsworthpushed a 47-yard field goal wide right.

Early in the second quarter, the Sun Devils managed to get some points out oftheir third consecutive promising drive after junior safety Riccardo Stewartmade an acrobatic interception on the goal line.

Richardson set his team down the right track with a 15-yard reception on acomeback pattern. Hagan then caught a 15-yard pass of his own to advance theball inside the red zone. The drive stalled after an illegal shift penalty, butAinsworth's 25-yard field goal off the left hash mark gave ASU a 10-7 lead.

'In the first two games, our heads were just too big,' Hagan said. 'We made afew good plays in those first two games, then we played Iowa and Oregon Stateand we didn't make that many plays. Today, we made a lot of plays, but wedidn't come out with the win.'

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