Defense answers back in today's scrimmage

Granted, eight touchdowns were scores in today's scrimmage, yet Saturday's session looked anything but the last scrimmage where the offense dominated. The defense have the upper hand at Sun Devil Stadium creating the desirable balance coaches yearn for in spring practice .

"Last Saturday's the scrimmage was dominated by the offense," said Arizona State head Coach Todd Graham. "Today our defense dominated. That's a good sign, as long as both teams are coming out and being passionate about what they're doing.

"We turn the football over three times, and we had three turnovers on downs. Today we worked on a lot of short yardage 4th down and the defense really won those downs. We can't be up and down and that is what I keep on talking to these guys about. But I thought the defense did some good things."

It took six possessions until the offense scored a touchdown, when Michael Eubank tossed a 10-yard pass to Gary Chambers. Eubank would throw two more touchdowns later on, but was also intercepted twice once by Osahon Irabor and once by Deveron Carr (a pick that prevented a TD pass). The redshirt freshman was 8-22 for 95 yards.

Mike Bercovici shook off a slow start and threw three scores of his own late in the scrimmage, but also had a lost fumble. Overall he paced all signal callers going 13-25 for 136 yds. Taylor Kelly wasn't far behind in the scoring department throwing two touchdowns as he completed 6-8 passes for 51 yards.

"I felt I did average for myself." Bercovici said. "We had a lot of good situational football today and you don't get that in the average scrimmage, so this definitely felt like a game. I felt I made some good decisions, but what's on my mind right now is a 4th down throw I threw too high. I need to know when to throw downfield and when to run the ball, so it's things like that are setting me back.

"We're really working on our run fundamentals because that it what eases the pass game. I obviously try and pass the ball as much as I can, but our run game is very strong and we have so many diverse plays. As an offense we know what we're doing on the whiteboard, but we need to bring it down to the field. We have some small hesitations by players, depth on route issues and that makes a difference. The no-huddle offense is so demanding on the tiny little factors and if we can clean that up we'll be fine because you see that when we get rolling it's pretty hard to stop us."

While 282 yards passing in a scrimmage is certainly an encouraging stat, there were only two passes completed over 20 yards as the defensive line was able to apply consistent pressure while the defensive backs often were very effective in pass coverage.

Max Smith has his best performance as a Sun Devil as he led all receivers with 67 yards on seven catches and a touchdown.

"I think I did personally pretty well," said Smith. "A couple minor mistakes. I'm obviously not in the shape I need to be, so this summer, this offseason I'm going to work extremely hard to get fast and get my endurance up."

Rashad Ross has a solid day himself hauling three of his five catches for scores and collecting 48 yards. Gary Chambers was effective early in the session catching three balls for 38 yards and a tandem of scores.

"Catching touchdowns is always exciting," Chambers admitted. "But I feel like I was getting lines up faster and keeping up with the tempo that our coaches have been talking about for a long time. The little things. That's what I was happy about. I think the offense did pretty good. We always have to work to get better. We always want to get that tempo moving and go faster. But for the most part we all came out here and we ran our plays well. We blocked well. We just need to get better and keep working.

"With the spring game coming up in a week, this helps a lot, take another leap forward. So by the time we get there before this little break over the summer we can all come together and get the details right. We made a big stride towards that today."

While defense undoubtedly had their struggles in the run game, as the offense rushed for 406 yards. However, the defense flexed its muscles today preventing the offense from converting a trio of 4th and short situations. Marcus Washington led all rushers with 99 yards on 12 carries including a 40-yard run. James Morrison continued his solid spring collecting 80 yards on 16 attempts. All three quarterbacks rushed for a total of 133 yards.

Kicker Alex Garoutte continued his streaky performance at ASU's scrimmage Saturday, connecting on five of seven field goals. The sophomore started the scrimmage nailing kicks of 42 and 30 yards, before missing on a 35-yarder and connecting again on a 28-yarder. He also missed on an extra point attempt and another attempt partially blocked but cleared the crossbar

Near the end of the scrimmage, Sun Devils coach Todd Graham called for a simulation of a "game-winning field goal." Garoutte started the exercise by missing a 42 yarder and finished hitting field goals of 41 and 44 yards.

Garoutte authored perhaps the most entertaining play of the day late in the scrimmage when he made a diving catch in the end zone on a point after attempt. When the snap was mishandled, Garoutte began streaking toward the end zone calling for a pass from sophomore quarterback Mike Bercovici. But the catch was called back due to an ineligible receiver downfield penalty.

Sophomore Parker Flynn attempted one kick on the day, missing from 44 yards.

On defense linebacker Brandon Johnson, who rotated between the first and second team, led the defense with 13 tackles, and fellow linebacker Kipeli Koniseti had nine tackles and a sack. Defensive tackle Will Sutton had three tackles, a sack and fumble recovery.

Cornerback Osahon Irabor caused the first fumble of the scrimmage, which Sutton recovered. Irabor also made two tackles, an interception and a pass breakup. His backfield teammate Deveron Carr collected 2.5 tackles, including one for loss. He also intercepted redshirt freshman quarterback Michael Eubank in the end zone midway through the scrimmage. Carr also recovered a fumble caused by junior linebacker Anthony Jones and returned it 35 yards.

Defense did prevent scores in the offense's last two possessions, a goal line situation and two minute drill.

The team will practice this coming Tuesday and Thursday at 4 p.m. and will conclude spring practice with a spring game on Saturday, April 21st at 1 p.m. at Sun Devil Stadium.

Scrimmage Stats (Unofficial)


Morrison: 16-80

Lewis: 7-30

Kelly: 8-52

Eubank: 11-58

Bercovici: 6-23 (lost fumble)

Washington: 12-99 (long run of 40)

Pickens: 4-35

Miles: 1-9


Bercovici: 13-25 136 yds 3TD's (one TD was a goal line situational series)

Eubank: 8-22 95 yds 3 TD's, 2 INT's

Kelly: 6-8 51 yds 2 TD's


Smith: 7-67 TD

Ross: 5-48 3 TD's

Chambers: 3-38 2 TD's

Miles: 4-36

Holliday 2-32

Rogers 1-17 TD

Ozier 1-10 TD

Field Goals:

Garoutte 5-7 FG's made: 42, 30, 28, 41, and 44 missed: 35, 42


Brandon Johnson: 13 tackles

Koniseti: 9 tackles, sack

Irabor: 2 tackles, INT, PD, FF

Sutton: 3 tackles, sack, FR

Carr: 3.5 tackles, TFL, INT, FR

Sheffield: 2 tackles

McDonald: 4 tackles, sack

McCullen: 5.5 tackles

Nelson: 4 tackles

Taylor: 8 tackles

Jones: 2.5 tackles, FF

Keelan Johnson: 4.5 tackles

Coleman: 2.5 tackles

Darby: 5.5 tackles

Tucker: 5 tackles, PD

Conoway: 3.5 tackles, sack

Kennedy: 4 tackles, tackle for loss

Chris Drexel contributed to this article.

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