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College Sports: Arizona St. spoils Price's UTEP debut

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posted on Sep, 3 2004 @ 08:36 AM
UTEP turned out to be another.

"Our expectation was to win the game, and we certainly didn't do that," Price said after watching Arizona State rout the Miners 41-9 Thursday night. "We were beaten soundly. I'm disappointed because the players have done everything that I've asked them to do."

Price landed in El Paso after being dismissed by Alabama for questionable conduct after a night of heavy drinking and partying at a strip club in Florida in April 2003.

UTEP, which had won only six games in three previous seasons, took a chance on the 1997 national coach of the year.

Price said his instincts may have been rusty after a year away from Washington State, but he didn't feel the national attention directed at his return was a distraction.

"They seemed very, very focused and they gave it a good effort," he said. "They didn't play real great, but they gave it a good effort."

Price took over a 2-11 team, and the result was predictable against the Sun Devils, who returned 47 lettermen anxious to forget last year's 5-7 record.

The Sun Devils' Andrew Walter threw three touchdown passes and Emmanuel Franklin scored on one of his two interceptions.

One bright spot for the Miners was Jordan Palmer's 37-yard completion to Johnnie Lee Higgins Jr. That set up a 12-yard scoring run by Howard Jackson with 1:49 left in the second quarter and cut Arizona State's lead to 24-6.

Walter, the only Sun Devils quarterback to have two 3,000-yard seasons, was mediocre by his standards - 18-of-37 for 241 yards. He had TD passes of 34 yards to Terry Richardson, 2 yards to Brent Miller and 15 yards to Derek Hagan.

Sharp at the start, Walter looked flat in the third quarter and didn't play in the fourth.

The Sun Devils had good field position most of the way due to good defense - a fumble caused by Jamar Williams and recovered by Josh Barrett ended a UTEP drive in the third, and Mike Davis Jr. picked off one of Palmer's four interceptions in the fourth.

"I felt like offensively we were a little bit out of rhythm all night," coach Dirk Koetter said. "We made enough plays to keep going, but I didn't feel that we were in sync like we can be."

Walter went 5-of-7 on Arizona State's first possession, which ended with a 22-yard field goal by Jesse Ainsworth, who added a career-best 48-yarder in the third.

UTEP adjusted briefly as Walter missed six straight passes and was sacked once.

He broke his skid with an 18-yard completion to Lee Burghgraef, and then found Richardson for a TD with 13:30 left in the second quarter.

"We got off on the right foot," Walter said. "We made a few great plays. There were four or five really bad plays that we need to turn into good plays."

Franklin's two interceptions in a 2:40 span keyed the next two scores.

The safety returned the first 28 yards to set up Miller's TD grab. Then Franklin stepped in front of Jonas Crafts and took the second 48 yards, making it 24-0 with 8:58 left.

Before the quarter ended, Arizona State had another interception of Palmer, who threw 13 interceptions while starting six games as a freshman.

"We made a lot of mistakes across the board," Palmer said. "I made four big ones myself. At the same time, it was a good learning experience."

The Sun Devils extended the lead to 41-6 on backup Sam Keller's 68-yard TD pass to Rudy Burgess early in the fourth quarter.

Defensive tackle Quency Darley pulled down a deflection, but the Miners held with the help of a sack by Chris Mineo and a blocked punt by Chris Francies that set up UTEP's two-play, 49-yard scoring drive.

Jahmal Fenner had a 76-yard punt return late in the game, and Palmer passed to Jayson Boyd in the end zone, but the 8-yard play was nullified by an offensive pass interference on Boyd, and the Miners settled for a 33-yard field goal by Bryce Benekos.

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