TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) -- Mike Stoops struggled through a difficult
first year as coach at Arizona. He's 1-0, though, in the game that
Redshirt freshman Richard Kovalcheck threw three touchdown
passes -- two to Mike Jefferson -- and the Wildcats turned five
takeaways into 24 points to stun Arizona State (No. 20 ESPN/USA Today; No. 18 AP) 34-27 on
"Finally, we showed we can do something offensively," said
Stoops, who was his brother Bob's co-defensive coordinator at
Oklahoma. "We attacked in a lot of ways."
Andrew Walter, the Sun Devils' record-breaking senior
quarterback, left the game with an injury to his right shoulder
with 7:30 remaining and his team trailing 34-20.
"His right shoulder was driven into the ground," Arizona State
coach Dirk Koetter said. "It's a shoulder separation of some sort,
but I don't know the degree."
Mike Bell rushed for 139 yards on 21 carries for the Wildcats
(3-8, 2-6 Pac-10), who averaged 13 points per game going into the
contest -- last among 117 Division I-A teams. The victory snapped an
18-game losing streak against ranked teams for Arizona.
"They kind of underestimated us, thinking we were a team that
was going downhill," Bell said. "But we always kept fighting.
Coach kept us positive. No matter what the situation was, we were
going down fighting."
Arizona State (8-3, 5-3) lost four fumbles and had one
interception to help Arizona reach a season-high point total.
"It's a no-brainer," Koetter said. "You're not going to beat
anybody turning it over five times."
The loss probably won't affect Arizona State's chances for the
Holiday Bowl, said bowl representative Larry Baber. The Sun Devils
are expected to receive the invitation if No. 1 Southern California
plays in the Orange Bowl and No. 4 California in the Rose Bowl.
Four Arizona State defensive players were benched for portions
of the game for violating team rules. Koetter wouldn't identify
them. But safety Ricardo Stewart admitted he was one of them, and
said the violation was "for something goofy that we did."
Stewart and linebacker Justin Burks didn't play in the first
quarter, and linebacker Dale Robinson didn't play in the second. It
was unclear who the fourth player might have been.
"That's unfortunate, but when you violate team rules, there's a
price to be paid, even if it puts our team at risk," Koetter said,
"and it definitely did today."
Kovalcheck -- 17-of-31 for 239 yards, with one interception -- had
touchdown passes of 54, 2 and 47 yards. The 47-yarder to Jefferson
down the right sideline put the Wildcats up 34-20 with 9:32 to
"We've definitely started the foundation" for the Stoops era,
Kovalcheck said. "We came out with everyone determined to win, to
have something to take home after everything we've done this
Stewart slipped, allowing Steve Fleming to break free for a
54-yard touchdown pass in the first half.
"Just making a few plays can make all the difference in the
world in games," Stoops said. "And that's what our kids did
Walter, the Pac-10 record holder with 85 career touchdown
passes, was 23-for-38 for 320 yards but no scores in his final
regular-season game. He was injured when he scrambled, went into a
slide and his shoulder slammed into the ground at the Arizona 40.
He returned to Tempe, where further tests were planned on Saturday.
Backup Sam Keller came on and completed five straight passes,
the last one 3 yards to Jamaal Lewis for a touchdown to make it
34-27 with 5:05 to go. Arizona State got the ball back with 2½
minutes to play, and Keller threw 42 yards to Moey Mutz as the
Wildcats drove to the Arizona 23.
But ASU lost a down on an intentional grounding penalty, and on
fourth-and-10 from the 23, Matt Miller dropped Keller's pass to
clinch the victory for Arizona.
The Wildcats, two-touchdown underdogs, led 20-17 at the half on
Kovalcheck's 2-yard touchdown pass to Jefferson with 7 seconds
On its first possession of the third quarter, Arizona State
drove to the Arizona 9, but Hakim Hill fumbled into the end zone
and Kirk Johnson recovered for a touchback. Johnson had two fumble
recoveries in the game.
Arizona took over, and Bell ran 57 yards to the Arizona State
21. Three plays later, Gilbert Harris ran 6 yards for the score and
Arizona led 27-17 with 9:53 left in the third.
Nick Folk kicked field goals of 23 and 53 yards -- the longest by
an Arizona kicker in nine years.