November 8, 2004
The scoreboard may not reflect it, but the Arizona State defense has been playing solid football.
"Two weeks in a row our defense has only given up one TD a game that's their fault," coach Dirk Koetter said Sunday. "I'm happy with the way our defense is playing right now."
The defense has been put in tough situations with turnovers and penalties.
Against Stanford on Saturday, two blocked punts resulted in short scoring drives for the Cardinal. Stanford had gained just 117 yards going into the final period.
Several defensive players had strong games in the 34-31 Pac-10 victory at Sun Devil Stadium.
Koetter said cornerback Chris McKenzie "was having his best game of the year" before being injured. Fellow corner Josh Golden backed up a prediction that he would jump a three-step sideline route and get an interception; he had two for the game.
Defensive tackle Jimmy Verdon "was very, very impressive," Koetter said.
“He had some great plays. I thought the linebackers were solid. Our safeties were solid all night."
Still, the Sun Devils needed the offensive heroics of senior quarterback Andrew Walter and the receiving corps to avoid an upset loss.
ASU drove 80 yards in 13 plays to pull it out with nine seconds left.
Problems in the kicking game contributed to the tight contest.
Koetter credited Stanford's Udeme Udofia, a Chaparral High School graduate, for an exceptional play in blocking two Chris MacDonald punts.
"Both plays were exactly the same thing," he said.
Udofia pushed Jamar Williams back close enough to reach his hand out and get a piece of the ball.
"They were two great plays. Jamar was square on him," Koetter said. "All I could tell Jamar was he needed to take him on closer to the line of scrimmage and not get driven back so much."
Koetter said he will ask the Pac-10 to review the penalty called on Tyrice Thompson for landing on an opponent after attempting to block a Stanford field goal.
The penalty is new this season.
"The rule is being unevenly enforced," Koetter said. "I don't think we did anything illegal on that play."
Koetter credited his staff for devising a successful blocking scheme against Stanford's 3-4 defense, allowing Rudy Burgess to rush for 186 yards.
"We ended up running the stretch play 18 times," he said. "The offensive line did a real nice job. Our wide receivers had nice blocks."
Koetter admitted he wore out the 175-pound Burgess, who played on three special teams and had to pass protect for Walter on a few occasions in addition to carrying the ball 34 times.
"If we had to do it all over, I would have played Preston (Jones) and Hakim (Hill) to keep him a little fresher," Koetter said. "But you have to love the effort he gave us."
EXTRA POINTS: The Sun Devils (7-2, 4-2 Pac-10) moved up three spots to No. 20 in The Associated Press poll this week. . . .
ASU closes out its home schedule against Washington State on Saturday. The jersey of Pat Tillman, who was killed earlier this year while fighting for the United States in Afghanistan, will be retired. The game will be televised by TBS. . . .
Offensive guard Zach Krula (mononucleosis) dressed but did not play. He should return to action this week, Koetter said.. . .
Walter was named the Walter Camp Foundation offensive player of the week after passing for 415 yards and four touchdowns.. . .
Game balls were given to Burgess and Zach Miller on offense, Verdon and Justin Burks on defense.