Devils Bounce Back Against Beavers

Protect home field. That was one of coach Koetter's priorities going into the season. Entering the Oregon State game, the 3-0 home field record was judged as suspect at best, because those wins were against vastly inferior non-conference opponents. Nevertheless, the 41-24 win over the visiting Beavers not only keeps ASU perfect at Sun Devils Stadium, but also gives the Devils their first quality home triumph of the season.

For the first time this season, quarterback Jeff Krohn was mortal with a sub-par performance of 8-25 for 185 yards. Krohn had no touchdowns to go along with one pick. Ironically the only passing score for ASU was a trick play by Justin Taplin who threw a 23-yarder to Ryan Dennard. Furthermore, Shaun McDonald's receiving touchdown did start out as 65-yard pass by Krohn but since McDonald fumbled in the endzone and recovered the ball for a score, Krohn was held with a TD pass tonight. The dismal display by Krohn was negated by one of the best rushing performances an ASU offense – 314 yards. Delvon Flowers absolutely maligned Oregon State with 226 yards on 23 carries scoring a pair of touchdowns. It was sweet redemption for the senior who was battling injuries for several months, and was virtually a non-factor in ASU's offense thus far. Tom Pace chipped in with 84 yards on only 10 carries and a late touchdown, which sealed the Beavers faith.

With all due respect to the awesome offensive ground game, it was the defense that spearheaded the second half turnaround, which helped the Devils attain their first conference victory. ASU's defensive unit had made extremely effective adjustments at halftime that held OSU in the second half to 7 points and 92 total yards. Five of the last six Beavers' possessions in this half resulted in "three and out" plays. Players like Solomon Bates and Al Williams who have had tremendously difficult years so far, recorded 8 tackles each and showed glimpses of their fine play that fans have been accustomed to the last couple of years. Mason Unck and Jason Shivers who have been some of the better defenders on this team this season also recorded eight tackles individually. Terrell Suggs continued his quest for 20 sacks, recording one more against OSU. Holding the Beavers' star running back Ken Simonton to 74 yards was another feather in the defenses' cap. This game from a defensive standpoint, was by far the best coached one this year.

Special teams maintained its roller coaster performance that has been its trademark in the 2001 season. On the one hand, Nick Murphy punted well and had an average of 46 yards. Punt returns and kick-off returns were solid as well with 84 yards on four punts, and 68 yards on 2 kickoffs. Pace had a 45-yard kick-off return, while McDonald had a 62-yard punt return. On the other hand, the kick-off coverage continued its struggles allowing 74 yards on four kicks. Kicker Mike Barth snapped his 12 straight field goal record with a kick that was blocked. On another field goal attempt, a fake play ended with an incomplete pass by reserve quarterback Matt Cooper.

The two decisive losses in the Pac-10 raised many doubts if this ASU team had what it took to compete in the Pac-10. At least for game, those doubts haven been somewhat erased. This was a game that did look bleak at times for the home team. But ASU's resolve and perseverance, along with effective half time adjustments, all helped the Devils get off the snide in conference play. With three of ASU's games taking place at Sun Devil Stadium, the importance of accomplishing Koetter's mission to go undefeated at home can not be over overstated. The upcoming game against Washington presents even a bigger challenge than Oregon State did. However, it is clear that a repeat performance of the second half by the maroon and gold could probably help the team prevail in its remaining games and turn its home field into hostile territory for visiting teams. The manner in which the team and its coaches deal with the much-awaited Pac-10 success after tonight's game, will go a long ways in determining how the Sun Devils will fair not only against Washington, but also in the second half of the season.

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