Mike Nixon entered this season without a single interception, but with a pick against Washington State on Sunday, the Arizona State linebacker now has four, which leads the Sun Devils.
Nixon, a junior, intercepted a pass by Washington State quarterback J.T. Levenseller early in the third quarter and returned it 8 yards.
“This week, (defensive coordinator and linebackers) coach (Craig) Bray just harped on getting under that deep receiver,” Nixon said.
“ … The quarterback kind of stared it down. I was just able to read his eyes and you’ve got to get a little luck that they throw it right to you.”
Nixon is in the midst of a standout year. He has a team-best 74 tackles after again leading the Devils in that category Saturday with six tackles against the Cougars.
Nixon started out as a safety when he walked onto the ASU football team in 2006 after a minor league baseball career.
He quickly moved to linebacker, starting this season as a linebacker capable of playing at all three positions — strong, middle and weak.
Nixon started at middle linebacker against UNLV when Gerald Munns was injured. Since the Georgia game on Sept. 20, Nixon has played at the weakside spot.
ASU coach Dennis Erickson said Nixon has put himself in the right spot to come up with big plays this season.
“You know, Mike is really football smart and he just makes plays, he knows where to be,” Erickson said.
“In practice when we go against him, he’ll see our offense and know exactly what we’re doing and then that’s how he plays and he gets interceptions that way. He gets big plays like that, he’s a real leader. He’s smart and he’s had a great year.”
While Nixon thinks he can play even better, overall he is satisfied with his performance so far this season.
“If you’re in the right spot, you’re going to make plays and just to try to build on that position,” Nixon said.
“I just try to be sound, let the plays come to me and when they have, just make them.”