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September 18, 2010

Sun Devils kick opportunity away on blocked PAT

MADISON, Wisc. -- Running back Cameron Marshall's 2-yard touchdown run brought a momentary sigh of relief from thousands of Arizona State fans in attendance at the 4:09 mark of the fourth quarter.

Perhaps too, one or more Sun Devils relaxed just a bit.

It was enough for Wisconsin's Jay Valai to get enough penetration to block kicker Thomas Weber's point after attempt to prevent the Sun Devils from tying the game.

Following the ensuing kickoff, Wisconsin ran 14 plays covering 50 yards and the game's final 4:03 to earn a hard fought 20-19 victory in front of a sellout 81,332 at Camp Randall Stadium.

"It's hard for me to tell (what happened on the PAT)," Sun Devil coach Dennis Erickson said. "You know, obviously somebody penetrated through, and we haven't had anyone close [to blocking one yet] and the sad thing is that special teams wise, we dominated the football game. It was unbelievable the things we did on special teams."

The Badgers were limited offensively by a stout ASU rushing defense in the first half before junior running back John Clay and freshman running back James White made their physical presence felt following intermission.

Wisconsin totaled just 57 rushing yards before the break, but Clay finished with 125 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries while White had 42 yards on six carries.

"That's what our coaches preach out, staying with it, being the best (team) and playing a four-quarter game," Clay said. "We can't underestimate any opponent."

The heavy emphasis on stopping Wisconsin's run led to play-fake opportunities, and Badgers junior tight end Lance Kendricks was the primary recipient with seven catches for 131 yards and a touchdown.

"It was pretty tough I mean you get out there on the field and you just feel they are going to run the ball every play," junior cornerback Omar Bolden said. "They are so aggressive in the run game and we are so worried about them breaking a big play on the run. We just make a few mistakes; bad eyes."

While the ground game churned up a lot of clock, Wisconsin couldn't translate its offense -- 440 yards from scrimmage in the game -- into a lot of points. It scored just once in the second half, a 19-yard run by Clay at the 3:32 mark of the third quarter to go ahead 20-13.

Arizona State junior quarterback Steven Threet led his offense on a 77-yard 10-play scoring drive that ate up nearly seven-and-a-half minutes of clock in the fourth quarter before Marshall's score.

It was the team's lone touchdown-producing offensive series of the game for a team that drove the ball deep into Wisconsin territory numerous times but either came away empty or with a disappointing field goal.

"I feel like it's a loss," Erickson said. "I felt like and my team felt like we were going to come in here and win this game," Erickson said. "We've got to come in and play teams like this and beat teams like this to get us where we want to be in our football program. That's why I came to Arizona State.

Weber's miss of a 25-yard field goal attempt from the left hash mark on ASU's first drive came after a 6-minute, 14-play drive that demonstrated the Sun Devils' ability to move the ball successfully via a balanced attack.

All told, ASU had 380 yards of total offense, with Threet completing 21 of 33 pass attempts for 211 yards and the team's running backs, led by freshman Deantre Lewis, rushing for 188 yards on 28 attempts (a 6.0 yards per carry average).

Still, while it perhaps marked a sign of ASU's progress moving the ball effectively against the nation's No. 11 team, it wasn't enough to please its quarterback.

"I don't really believe in moral victories but you know we came and we played well and you know we did good on offense and good on defense and it wasn't enough so we've got to find a way to make it happen in Pac-10 play," Threet said.

Without ASU's special teams play, it might not have had a chance to tie the game late at all.

The Sun Devils returned five kickoffs for 333 yards, including a 97-yard touchdown by junior Omar Bolden -- the longest in Camp Randall history -- near the end of the first quarter to make it a 7-3 ASU advantage.

Weber made it a 10-3 advantage for ASU on a 25-yard attempt at the 5:08 mark of the second quarter before Wisconsin responded with a converted 44-yarder from junior Philip Welch three minutes later to cut ASU's lead to 10-6.

The Badgers took their first lead at 13-10 with 10 seconds left in the second half on a touchdown pass from senior quarterback Scott Tolzien -- who finished 19 of 25 for 246 yards and one touchdown -- to Hendricks.

Freshman Kyle Middlebrooks returned the following kickoff 95 yards but was dragged down at the Wisconsin 1-yard line by sophomore Shelton Johnson as time expired in the half.

It was a play emblematic of the Sun Devils' frustrating inability to find the end zone all game.


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