It was a John Elway night for Arizona State quarterback Andrew Walter against Stanford. The senior from Grand Junction, Colo., surpassed the Stanford legend as the career leader in touchdown passes in the Pac-10 with 80.
The last TD pass capped what could be called The Drive.
Walter marched the Sun Devils 80 yards in 13 plays, connecting with Matt Miller on a 4-yard scoring play with nine seconds left as the Sun Devils rallied for a 34-31 victory over Stanford on Saturday at Sun Devil Stadium.
"I’ve never been in a game like that," said a relieved ASU coach Dirk Koetter, who watched his team overcome two blocked punts, a missed field goal and three lost fumbles.
The homecoming crowd sat stunned after Stanford backup quarterback T.C. Ostrander connected with tight end Alex Smith on a 67-yard scoring play that gave the Cardinal a 31-26 lead with 2:02 left. But there was no panic on the home sideline.
"We’d been in that situation before," Walter said. "Two minutes to go. Backs against the wall. That’s the way we like it."
The No. 23 Sun Devils (7-2, 4-2 Pac-10) overcame a 2-and-29 at the ASU 43 to complete the winning drive.
Passes of 19 yards to Derek Hagan and 11 yards to Terry Richardson netted first downs. A 10-yard pass to tight end Zach Miller put ASU at the Cardinal 4.
On the next play, Walter found Matt Miller in the back of the end zone behind linebacker David Bergeron.
"Zach got double-teamed and that opened up the middle for me," Matt Miller said. "I just framed the ball. I knew it was coming to me."
Miller also had another big play when ASU scored on the final play of the first half.
With two seconds left and ASU at its 48, Walter lofted a spiral that somehow managed to reach Miller in the end zone without a Cardinal defender glued to him to knock the ball down.
The 52-yard scoring play was Walter’s 78th touchdown pass, eclipsing Elway’s 77.
"Divine intervention," Walter said, summing up a play he frequently attempted as a redshirt freshman reserve. "You figure one of those will come in your favor. It happened today."
The touchdown gave the Sun Devils a 17-14 lead at intermission. It should have been more as ASU had 373 yards at halftime.
"We shot ourselves in the foot about a thousand times and we made it a lot tougher than we needed to," Koetter said.
Stanford (4-5, 2-4) got its two first-half touchdowns after Chaparral graduate Udeme Udofia twice blocked Chris MacDonald punts to give Stanford the ball at the ASU 4 and 13.
ASU got an unexpected lift from receiver-turned-running back Rudy Burgess.
The 175-pound redshirt freshman, subbing for the injured Hakim Hill (ankle), rushed for 186 yards on 34 carries.
After grabbing the lead at halftime, the Devils controlled the game but couldn’t deliver the knockout punch.
ASU added two points on Stanford’s second series when, from the Cardinal 2, linebacker Justin Burks forced running back Kenneth Tolon to run wide, where safety Riccardo Stewart was charging up field to make the tackle in the end zone.
"It spilled to me, and I played my gap," Stewart said. "It was fun. I hadn’t got (a safety) in my life."
ASU extended its lead to 26-14 when Walter completed a 7-yard scoring pass to Zach Miller.
But then Burgess muffed a punt and Stanford needed to travel only 40 yards for a touchdown to get back in the game, 26-22, with a successful 2-point conversion.
Midway through the final period, Stanford’s Michael Sgroi kicked a 47-yard field goal to draw the Cardinal within 26-25.
Stanford forced ASU to punt and got the ball at its 33 with 2:13 left.
Eleven seconds later, ASU was trailing.
"That last drive," Koetter said, "who else would you want" at quarterback?
"We looked each other in the eye and said we’re going to get it done," Matt Miller said. "We’d focused on mental toughness all week."
"We had so many guys make plays on the drive," said Walter, who passed for 415 yards. "It was just fun."