Sometimes in sports, fans are often times rewarded with great finishes and outstanding games. Then again, fans that paid the price of admission sometimes witness plays and last second miracles, that go down as tops in school history. Last night at Frank Kush Field, was one of those nights for fans in attendance.
Arizona State and Washington faced off for an inside track to bowl eligibility. That was exactly what was on the line for both teams on the field.
The Sun Devils were trying to improve upon their 3-2 record heading into the contest, and it was evident that Dennis Erickson's squad was in no mood to disappoint.
The defense was intimidating from the opening whistle. Although intimidation sometimes boiled over to "unsportsmanlike" a few times, the word was out on the Sun Devils defense. The talk before the game revolved around, shutting down the Washington offense, and awaiting the breakout game the offense was ready for.
Well Defensive Coordinator Craig Bray, let his defense come out and hit the Huskies in the mouth from the opening whistle. The Sun Devils looked to force pressure on Jake Locker from the start and smother the Huskies' rushing attack.
Washington's leading rusher last night was Chris Polk, with 51 yards on 12 carries. The Sun Devils also limited Huskies' quarterback Jake Locker to 24 yards on 8 carries.
But as the game wore on, the defense kept holding Washington, as the clock kept ticking. However, as the defense was working hard to earn a victory, the offense was finding their stride for the first time this season.
Senior quarterback Danny Sullivan has received a lot of criticism this season for his on-field performance, some warranted, some not, but nonetheless, Sullivan and ASU was rolling on all cylinders.
This was the Arizona State offense that fans grew accustomed to seeing in the past. But will the offense keep rolling up the stats and putting points on the board like last night? Well, we can't control the future, but last night Sullivan guided the Sun Devils to 464 yards, as he completed 21 of 35 passes for 263 yards and an epic 50-yard touchdown pass.
But from Sullivan's first completion to Gerrell Robinson, to his last gasp effort to avoid overtime, and beat the Huskies, Sullivan was cool, calm, and collected in the pocket, and completed his passes with venom. It seemed that Sullivan was out to prove all his doubters and critics wrong, and he did!
Sullivan not only led his team with his arm, he led with leadership, as he threw blocks for a thirty yard reverse run, by T.J. Simpson, a reverse pass thrown by Kyle Williams, and Sullivan played with confidence and poise while in the pocket under the lights.
Even the running game for Arizona State was was rolling. Usually, the case may be that if the passing game is piling up stats, the running game usually takes a drastic hit for ASU. But last night, was one of those nights where the Sun Devils just explode offensively.
Both running backs Dimitri Nance and Cameron Marshall ran for over 70 yards, Nance on 13 carries, and Marshall carried the ball four times with one huge 75 yard run. But neither running back could manage to find the end zone, they both left that responsibility up to their quarterback.
Danny Sullivan not only took the responsibility of throwing the football all over the field, he also took on the load of scoring on the ground for ASU as well. Sullivan was by far the most valuable player for the Sun Devils. He played within himself, but also played like a seasoned veteran, who did not make any mistakes, and that is all you can ask for.
Well, all you can ask for, and more. Especially, when speaking of the last play for ASU. The Sun Devils were trying to set up a chance at kicking a late field goal to win, or play for overtime. Although both good options, Sullivan wanted to end the game on one swift motion.
Sullivan, who wore Chris McGaha's number thirteen jersey in practice this week, scanned the field looking for options, and his best, most reliable, sure-handed receiver, who missed practice all week with the flu was wide open, all Sullivan had to do was throw it. He did, and the crowd at Sun Devil Stadium went wild.
Danny Sullivan has not listened to his critics, he knows his ability, but what few have estimated is his determination to succeed. Sullivan wanted to achieve ultimate success, and last night the Senior quarterback did.
Last night, the Sun Devils won a "Do-or-Die showdown" with Washington 24-17, and to all his credit, Danny Sullivan hung tough, through thick and thin, and showed resiliency. Dennis Erickson knew that by sticking with his quarterback, in the end, the reward would far outweigh the risk.
And the reward was not only for the team on this night, but the fans who witnessed the jubilation on Frank Kush Field, following the the late touchdown toss. The Maroon and Gold clad fans in attendance let out a collective sigh of relief, as a team got back on track to return to a bowl game following a one year absence, and return to the forefront of the Pac-10 conference race.