ASU Linebackers seize their opportunities

Linebackers Mike Nixon and Brandon Magee came out against Idaho State ready to prove the hype about the ASU defense was deserved. Consequently, the Sun Devils defeated the Bengals 50-3 in their season opener. The night before game day, Nixon and Magee were roommates at the team hotel whom happen to have a lot in common and Magee now believes that dreams really do come true.

"We were roommates today and I woke up and I said ‘man, we're going to get some picks today!'" Magee recalled. "And Mike looked at me like, ‘no we won't.' I said, ‘yes we are Nixon, watch, let's go get some picks.' And we got picks!" And that is exactly what they did.

When asked if we share future pre-game dreams, exclaimed with a smile: "nope!"

Although the two linebackers have a common element of football, they also share a passion for baseball. Nixon had previously tired his hand at professional baseball with the Los Angeles Dodgers organization and Magee currently plays baseball for the highly ranked Sun Devils.

"We had a big debate this afternoon," Nixon shared. "Brandon thinks he is unpitchable and any pitch you throw up there he is hitting over the fence so I actually broke it down pitch by pitch by how I could strike him out. I just need a pitcher to execute the pitches."

Magee replied: "He is just going off of my stats from last season, I did strike out a lot but don't worry about it, I'll get it next season."

For now, the two linebackers are excelling on the gridiron and certainly came out ready for the Bengals offense. Mike Nixon finished the game with three interceptions and a total of 56 return yards, which makes him the leading receiver for Idaho State as well as leading his own wide receiver group for the highest total receiving yards in the game.

"It was obviously a good game," Nixon admitted. "I wish I could say I did something great on those picks but it was just kind of being in my drop (coverage) and making good reads. As far as defense as a whole, we did what we needed to do tonight. We came out and set the tone early."

Having performed hauling in catches, some wonder if Mike Nixon could have what it takes to play wide receiver. "I told (ASU wide receivers) Coach Yarber I could work the underneath stuff," quipped Nixon, "but with my speed I don't stretch it too much."

Ultimately Nixon is a solid defensive player who came out to prove that was the case. The senior managed to standout among his teammates during tonight's game and along with his trio of picks, he added a punt block. Beginning his senior year in the maroon and gold, he is simply focused on one thing and that is winning.

"It's an awesome moment getting ready to start the senior season but the most important think is the win," Nixon said. "If I had done this and we had gotten beat, it would have been a humbling experience so it was great to get a win and get the season off on the right foot."

Hype around the Sun Devil defense has been consistent and it was important to the players that tonight they proved they deserved it, and they did.

"It feels real nice," Magee said. "We got all the hype but we came out there and performed to the hype and that's the thing. It was really nice."

At the end of the 2008 season, Nixon had five career interceptions and has nearly doubled that total during the game against Idaho State. When the interception takes place the question arises whether or not the player's mindset shifts from a defensive to an offensive point of view.

"I think mine is the opposite," explained Nixon. "I look around and try not to get caught by people. Most people try to score but I'm looking at who might run me down. I run towards the quarterback and if the QB hits me then I know I'm in trouble."

Although it seemed as though the defense was playing a perfect game there were some improvements that will need to be made before the September 19th contest against Louisiana-Monroe.

"Without looking at the tape," Nixon said, "We probably held them to a couple of first downs, had some turnovers and that's what you want to do, especially early in the season. There are going to be missed gaps we see on tape but as a whole it was pretty successful."

Another linebacker who had an outstanding evening was freshman Vontaze Burfict, who tied Magee, his former high school teammate for the highest total number of tackles of five.

"Before the game I said, ‘you're going to be a big hit Vontaze" and he said "alright man, I know, I know." Magee recalled.

Before their next contest, the Sun Devils will strive to make the improvements necessary to prepare for them for the rest of the schedule. Yet, they will do so without a game to prepare for next weekend.

"Bye week is never a bad thing," stated Nixon. "Just so you can get guys healthy. We've got guys like Lawrence Guy who are a little nicked up so it will make us a better defense but you know we've been working hard to play a different team and then all of a sudden we get a little taste of one and now we have to take a week of and hit each other. It's a little old but it's just the way it is."

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