Lack of Execution Costs Devils in Stunner

The popular theme surrounding Arizona State following its 23-20 upset loss to UNLV on Saturday was the lack of making the big play. ASU's offense couldn't get a first down to get the defense off the field and the Devils' defense wasn't able to get themselves off of the field.

"It is just a matter of not executing," said ASU linebacker Mike Nixon. "We always stress winning the third down battle. Last year we were very successful of getting our defense off the field and getting the offense the ball back. (UNLV RB Frank) Summers was running the ball and getting them in third and shorts, which are always tough. It allows them to either run or pass, when an offense has that option, we just didn't make the plays."

"It just came down to them making the plays when they needed to and us not being able to," Nixon continued. "We had them in third downs all night, to their credit they kept making the big plays and keeping the drive alive. Come overtime, they got the big play on the tip that kept the drive alive that could have been a pick. They made plays all night and we didn't, this is why we are sitting here like this."

The tipped pass that certainly could have been an interception that might have given ASU the victory turned into a completion down to the two-yard line that ultimately led the visitors to kick the game-winning field goal. After the tipped pass, according to Nixon, ASU was thinking what is going to happen next. That is why he wasn't surprised when Thomas Weber's game tying field goal was blocked.

"After that game, nothing really shocked me," Nixon admitted. "The tipped ball the guy catches and runs to the two (yard line), it was just like ‘what is going to happen next?' You just shake your head, it still really hasn't sunk in."

Nixon felt that ASU had a good game plan and that it simply came down to the Devils executing that game plan.

"I thought we had a good game plan going in and it just came down to execution," he explained. "I thought we got some matchups that we wanted and we just didn't make the plays. Every game it comes down to five or six plays that swing the momentum and we make those tonight it isn't close."

"We go into every game confident with our game plan; defensively we think we can win every game. Everytime we lose it is a surprise to us."

It was brought up all week that this was an obvious trap game and was repeatedly denied by ASU coaches and players. Despite the loss, Nixon insisted that he and his teammates didn't overlook the Rebels.

"No not at all," he claimed. "If we come out and win the third down battle like we always try to hang our hat on and maybe create a few big plays here and there, we didn't create a turnover the whole game, it is a different story. We were unable to do those things that made us tough last year."

Nixon also didn't witness a lack of effort, just simply not making the big play to put ASU over the top.

"I think we played hard," Nixon remarked. "The second half the defense was on the field quite a bit, but we are going to be like that in games. The most important thing is to bounce back and be ready to play the next four games because it isn't getting any easier."

The Rebels ran an unusual type of no huddle offense. UNLV would line up and then get the play from the sideline and adjust their call after seeing ASU's formation. Nixon says that it didn't contribute to ASU's defensive struggles.

"After the first series we adjusted to it fine," he said. "We knew they were going to do it. Until you see the speed of it, practice doesn't prepare you for it. What we were able to do was to see what you were in and they would re-adjust their call, we were able to do the same after the first drive. It came down to them making plays and we didn't."

One of the Rebels that made plays was running back Frank Summers. The power back finished with 112 yards after not having a single rushing yard in the first quarter.

"He is a little bowling ball back there and in the second half the just started pounding it away. He was putting them in second and short, third and short situations," explained Nixon, "When we were able to make plays they were able to kind of air it out for first downs. He ran hard all night and to his credit, put them in a position to win."

Nixon commented that Summers and the spread UNLV offense mentally wore down the Sun Devil defense, more than it did physically.

"It is more of a mental fatigue," Nixon stated. "You just have to play that zone read so disciplined, if they get one person out of their lane, the quarterback and running back is going to exploit it. We did a good job except for one stretch late, other than that I thought we played alright."

Nixon is realistic and knows that he and his teammates have to step up there I game next week, since they're playing a team is significantly more dangerous than UNLV. Putting this loss behind them is vital in preparing for the Bulldogs.

"We have to go back and regroup and it isn't going to get easier against Georgia next week, we better show up or we are going to get embarrassed," said Nixon.

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