Arizona State 30

(2-0, 1-0 away)

Northwestern 21

(0-2, 0-1 home)

Coverage: ESPN2

12:00 PM ET, September 11, 2004

Ryan Field, Evanston, IL

1 2 3 4 T
ASU 3 14 7 630
NW 0 7 14 021

Top Performers

Passing: A. Walter (ASU) - 292 YDS, 3 TD

Rushing: N. Herron (NW) - 17 CAR, 105 YDS, 1 TD

Receiving: D. Hagan (ASU) - 8 REC, 154 YDS, 2 TD

Arizona State 30, Northwestern 21

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."