Opportunistic Devils' Defense Leads the Way

Never has the ASU offense and defense preformed in such sharp contrast to each other. The Sun Devils' three interceptions for touchdowns were returned for a total of 183 yards, which eclipsed ASU's 122 yards of total offense. It was a night where everything went right for an ASU's record setting defense, while the maroon and gold offense was sputtering against UCLA in a 34-9 win.

Not only did the Arizona State (5-6, 4-4 Pac-10) defense hold UCLA (4-7, 3-5) to just three field goals, but their four touchdowns tied an NCCA recorded for an FBS team with Houston, who achieved the same feat in November 7th, 1987 in a win over Texas.

"However many years I've been coaching now…I've never seen a defensive effort like that," said head coach Dennis Erickson who has been coaching at the college level for 37 yards. "I've never seen that many points scored on defense ever in my life. It's something special.

"We got pressure on the quarterback (UCLA's Kevin Craft threw all three interceptions for touchdowns) with rushing four, played well in the secondary, tackled well, and when you play defense like that…if you want to build a solid football program that's gonna last for a long period of time you've got to become great on defense. We're getting close."

Offensively, ASU didn't register any points until the third quarter, when Thomas Weber connected on a 31-yard field goal. The sophomore would score the offense's other three points on the night converting a 38-yard field goal later in the fourth quarter.

"We played pretty poorly on offense," said quarterback Rudy Carpenter who was very brief in his post-game comments. "We haven't really played great all year on offense. We should have started punting on first down, because we're probably hurting our defense more.

"The defense played great and that's why we won obviously. We'll take the win however we can get it."

"They just kicked our rear ends basically," stated Erickson concerning the UCLA defensive domination of the ASU offense. "We had no rhythm whatsoever."

After UCLA took the early lead on a 53-yard field goal by Kai Forbath, the ASU defense began to dominate the Bruins. Its first touchdown was an improbable score by defensive tackle Paul ‘Unga who with the rest of the seniors was playing his last game at Sun Devil stadium.

Defensive end Dexter Davis sacked Craft and caused the UCLA signal caller to fumble the ball. Bruin running back Derrick Coleman was nonchalantly holding the ball thinking the play was dead.

Problem was the referees' whistle never blew.

An alert ASU linebacker Mike Nixon slapped the ball away from the unsuspecting Coleman, and ‘Unga returned the ball 17 yards for the Devils' first score.

Two UCLA's possessions later, Craft was intercepted on his first pass of the series by Travis Goethel, who was a beneficiary of a tipped ball by cornerback Terell Carr. The junior scampered for 38 yards en route to his own first career touchdown.

Following two Forbath's field goals, the visitors were in striking distance trailing just 17-9 late in the third quarter, and following a Carpenter interception re-gained possession. The ASU defense forced a three and out, but in the next Bruin possession UCLA drove the ball all the way until ASU's six-yard line.

On first and goal Craft tried to find a UCLA receiver in the end zone, and safety Troy Nolan alertly was able to not only break up the pass but also recover the tipped pigskin and return it 100 yards for a touchdown tying a school record in the process.

The misery for Craft continued (or perhaps ended) two passes later when Nixon intercepted the ball and with some uncharacteristic nifty open field moves returned the pick 45 yards for a score.

"These seniors are starting to establish the attitude that we want," said Erickson on his defensive group. "When you play like that you have a chance to win every football game you play. But tonight was unbelievable.

"I'll put that tape in my archives – the defensive side of it. The offensive side I'll burn," quipped Erickson. This victory gives a chance for ASU to finish at a .500 record and play in a bowl game, provided they can beat their archrival, the University of Arizona, in Tucson next Saturday. Naturally, Erickson knows that a repeat performance on offense would likely make that mission impossible to achieve.

"Hopefully we can find a way to be more productive offensively against the University of Arizona," remarked Erickson. "We need to and obviously they're a better offensive football team than a lot of teams.

"We have one day (to celebrate the win) and we have to get ready for the biggest game of the year."

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