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Sun Devils Defense Dominates in Second Half

The Sun Devils limited UNLV to 14 yards on 22 plays in the final two quarters and forced six three-and-outs.

In the first half, it appeared as if it was going to be a battle of two swift quarterbacks. Which one would rush for the most yards and touchdowns? The Arizona State defense answered back.

In the second half, the Sun Devils (2-0) defense held the UNLV (0-2) to 14 yards while earning a 37-10 victory and outscoring the Rebels 23-0 in the final two quarters.

UNLV quarterback Doug Brumfield put the defense on their heels early, rushing for 34 yards and a touchdown. Brumfield's speed led UNLV to two scoring drives in the opening half and left them behind by only four points at the break.

“We talked about it, I said ‘Look, third quarter now, this is when we really have to hone in on some things.’ I think our coaches did a great job at correcting some things on defense,” head coach Herm Edwards said. “The quarterback was hurting us at the beginning of the game. He made a couple first downs with his legs, kept the drive alive, and you have to give him credit. They did a nice job."

But the Rebels' points and the movement down the field halted as ASU powered through the offensive line, earning five sacks along the way. Linebacker Darien Butler led the team with two sacks in the game.

“What you see guys doing is understanding their mistakes and not doing them again," ASU defensive coordinator Antonio Pierce said. "They had a lot of repeat plays, we were expecting that, and it just comes down to execution."

UNLV ran only 22 plays in the second half and managed only one first down while having six three-and-outs. By the end of the game, the Rebels offense totaled a mere 155 yards.

Said defensive back Chase Lucas, “I think we were doing what we were supposed to the entire game. UNLV’s quarterback was finding lanes to scramble, but after halftime we talked to one another and said we were going to set up a spy on the quarterback, which worked in our favor to get the pressure that we needed to give our offense the ball. We did a great job in the end, but we have to start better defensively.

Success for the ASU came in large part its versatility on defense. Lucas saw time at cornerback for the first time in his career. The Sun Devils pressed more against the wide receivers and allowed more time for the pass rush.

“They did a couple things differently up front," UNLV head coach Marcus Arroyo said. "They played a little more cover 1. They’ve got a good group up front and they’ve got some DBs that can play for press. A few things here and there put us in a situation where we have to make some changes.”

Edwards made it an emphasis to stop the run this week. UNLV had run for 199 rushing yards the week before as senior running back Charles Williams earned 177 yards and two touchdowns.

"We went into the game feeling like we needed to stop their run game," Edwards said. "For the most part, we did. They have a dynamic runner and he didn't do a lot to us."

The maroon and gold defense halted the run game from the start, allowing only 88 yards. After containing Brumfield, ASU shut down Williams, who gained 35 yards, averaging just 2.7 yards on 13 carries.

ASU slammed the door shut late in the third quarter with two consecutive drives of negative yards for UNLV. After Brumfield exited the game with an injury after a hard hit, Justin Rogers was greeted by a sack, losing nine yards and on the next possession he was sacked again. In total, the Rebels lost 12 yards on two consecutive possessions.

The sturdy defense allowed the ASU offense to retain a four-point lead for the majority of the third quarter. While Brumfield struggled to rekindle his first-half success, so did the ASU offense which stalled out until late in the third quarter. A Rachaad White touchdown came with 45 seconds remaining in the third quarter and was followed by 16 points in the final 15 minutes.

It doesn’t stop for the Sun Devils. Next week they face undefeated BYU, which is fresh off a victory Saturday over Utah. The win came in large part because of 231 yards on the ground.

The quest to halt yet another offense will begin in practice this week.