Sometimes there really is no place like home.
The Arizona State defense welcomed a return to the friendly confines of Sun Devil Stadium and a very giving Washington State offense in a feel good 46-7 win Saturday afternoon in Tempe.
It was a nice going away gift for head coach Todd Graham’s seniors who started fast setting the tone against Mike Leach’s ‘Air Raid’ offense which entered the game as the top passing team in the Pac-12.
The Devils pitched a first half shutout holding the Cougs to -14 net rushing yards and just 119 yards total. Senior free safety Keelan Johnson picked off a pair of passes in his final home game and ASU’s front seven was just as dominant, harassing the Cougars quarterbacking duo Jeff Tuel and backup Connor Halliday who entered midway through the second quarter after Tuel was pulled by Leach. WSU converted just one of ten third downs in the first half. The two completed just 21-49 throws overall. Johnson was awarded the pitchfork after the game for his performance.
“We played a lot of man-to-man and got pressure on the quarterback,” senior linebacker Brandon Magee said after the game. “Give the d-line all the credit for that.”
The strong defensive effort comes after allowing 43, 45, 36, and 38 points the past four games (all losses). It also could be a confidence boost heading into Friday’s Territorial Cup showdown against in-state rival Arizona and first-year head coach Rich Rodriguez’s spread offense directed by fifth-year senior Matt Scott.
In the end the stats didn’t lie. The Cougars finished with a minuscule one yard rushing on 19 attempts (0.1 per carry) as ASU’s defense put Wazzu behind the eight ball early making their offense one-dimensional.
“We totally dominated the game,” Graham said. “I really wanted a shutout for our seniors. We’ll forever be indebted to [them] for laying a great foundation.”
The task will be much tougher when the Devils make the trip down the I-10 Friday to take on dual-threat quarterback Matt Scott and UofA’s spread offense which is putting up videogame-type numbers in Tucson.