Defense saves the day against Beavers

While many are quick to dismiss the "trap game" mentality, it shouldn't have been surprising to see ASU's energy level not quite at the level it was the last few weeks with the Oregon State Beavers in town.

After weathering a early storm of turnovers by their normally secure quarterback, Brock Osweiler, the Sun Devils got back in the game and ultimately took the lead thanks to the defense buckling down and playing tough in the red zone.

"They've got an attitude about them," coach Dennis Erickson said of his defense. "When they come out in a turnover situation and they have the ‘bend but don't break' thing on defense where they may move it down but when they get inside the ten or the 20 yard line they get held to a field goal, which makes a big difference.

"They also held them when the guy missed the field goal too. It's good to have that attitude and like I said, they played very well tonight."

ASU's first three possessions ended in Osweiler turnovers (two interceptions, one fumble), but the gutty 6'8" junior was able to rebound and still posted 24 completions in 37 attempts for 258 yards and two touchdowns. Not his greatest effort given the four total turnovers for the game, but one that was good enough to win, which ultimately is all that matters.

"He kept his composure really well," Erickson said of his quarterback. "Its like I said: you play that position, it's a hard position to play. It's not going to be sugar all the time and sweet all the time, but I thought he reacted real well, made some plays. He hit G-Rob on that one, that was a big play for us. We had a couple drops, but he reacted, he hung in there, there wasn't any panic in him."

Still, on a night where your signal-caller isn't at the top of his game, you need other players to step up and make plays, and boy did they ever. Junior all-purpose back Jamal Miles totaled 249 all-purpose yards and caused the biggest momentum swing of the game with his 78-yard Hester-esque punt return, making two Beavers miss before darting up the field for the score; his first career punt return for a score.

"He's a special athlete as we all know," Erickson said of Miles. "He's a guy that is a big playmaker in all aspects of it. Shoot, when he fumbled that punt against Missouri everybody wanted him off the punt return team, but no way he's coming off that.

"He's just so explosive and if you see the return as we view it, there were two guys coming down that were somewhat unblocked and he just made a move and took it up the middle. He's a weapon for us. He's got to be one of the better return guys in college football right now. That was a turning point. That was a huge play for us and it obviously made a difference in the game."

There were a few difference makers on the defensive side of the ball as well as sophomore defensive back Alden Darby tallied his first two career interceptions on the night and senior defensive end Jamaar Jarrett added two sacks while harassing Beaver quarterback Sean Mannion all night.

"He had pressure on that quarterback all day," Erickson said of Jarrett's performance. "When he didn't get to him he affected what he was doing. He's really emerged as a good football player for us. He's kind of taken on the leadership up front and I thought he played outstanding.

"Then Darbs, we made additions by playing more nickel and taking our linebacker out and putting Darbs in as a nickel linebacker. He's a talented guy and we talk about getting our best guys on the field and he's one of our better football players so we made that change and obviously it paid off."

Bottom line is ASU won when it was supposed to. While it may not have been the prettiest win they'll have all year, a fifteen-point win against a team that they haven't beaten in three years, especially coming off an emotional win the week before, is something to be proud of.

"You don't know how they're going to react after a big win and I see it happen every week and you talk to them about it," Erickson said of his team's energy level. "I thought in the second half we played a heck of a lot better and we ended up winning the game 35-20, so that's what I'm happy with."

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