Defense not to blame for desert drubbing

IN A WILDLY UNEVEN SEASON, it wouldn't be much of a stretch to look at yet another lopsided score and marvel at the Cougars' defense giving up yet another boatload of points. But in the case of Saturday's 52-31 loss at No. 13 Arizona State, the final tally was not, in fact, the result of a defensive debacle.

Whether it's actual progress, or just taking a backseat to the offensive trainwreck, the defense was hardly the cause for staunch complaints about yet another wasted Saturday. After all, Arizona State only put up 330 yards of total offense on the Cougars.

Consider that they gave up 7.7 yards per pass -- and 59 points -- to Arizona just three weeks ago.

Coach Mike Leach pointed out the statistical disparity in the dessert drubbing during a postgame radio interview.

"If you take the drives that start with a turnover, we make them look like the most explosive offense there is," he said.

Aside from allowing the Sun Devils to score on a 17-yard touchdown run by D.J. Foster after Taylor Kelly found him for a 42-yard completion down the right sideline on second-and-13 at their own 35-yard line, the defense had a stellar outing in the beginning of the game.

The front seven harassed Kelly all through the first quarter, resulting in negative-27 yards of total offense. The veteran-heavy group dominated the line of scrimmage as Kache Palacio, Destiny Vaeao, Daniel Ekulele, Xavier Cooper and Darryl Paulo each recorded a sack on Kelly during the opening period.

Leach said he felt the defense was much more focused when the offense didn't commit a turnover. The Cougars surrendered 31 points in the second half and their young secondary seemed overmatched at times.

"It’s all in our heads," he said. "We’re not overcoming adversity."

Redshirt freshman quarterback Luke Falk acknowledged that the Cougars were felled by "just not finishing drives."

But, he added, "I thought the defense played well in the first half."

BITTERSWEET DAY FOR MAYLE
Senior wide receiver Vince Mayle was one of the few bright spots in the offensive effort, setting the school record for the most receiving yards in school history, with 1,404, and the most receptions in a single season, with 101.

His school-record 15 passes for 252 yards marked his sixth 100-yard game of the season.

Still, he said, the achievements rang hollow in the face of defeat. "It obviously sucks," he said in a postgame radio interview. "We didn’t win. It would’ve felt a lot better with all that with a win."

NOTABLE NOTES
  • Isiah Myers caught his 12th touchdown pass of the season and is now tied for second-most in school history. He now has 19 career touchdown passes, tying with Jared Karstetter for the fourth-most in school history. With seven passes for 111 yards, it was also his third 100-yard game.

  • Jamal Morrow caught four passes to boost his season total to 61, breaking Steve Broussard's school record set in 1987 for most catches in a season by a running back, with 59.

  • Freshman cornerback Marcellus Pippins and redshirt sophomore nose tackle Robert Barber made their first career starts.

  • Ekuale recorded his first career sack.

  • Palacio recorded his team-leading 6.5th sack.

  • Cooper recorded his fifth sack of the season and 13th of his career. His 1.5 tackles for loss pushes his career total to 30.5, the ninth-most in school history.

  • Dom Williams caught his eighth touchdown pass of the season and 18th of his career, tying him for the sixth-most in school history.

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