ASU Vs. Utah: Sun Devils Defeat Utes 35-14

The Arizona State Sun Devils took a major step towards the Pac-12 South title with a dominant 35-14 win over Utah.

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ASU Vs. Utah: Ballhawking Defense, 5 Turnovers Key 35-14 Victory Over Utes

After forcing but a single turnover in their first two games, Arizona States injury-depleted defense has more than made up for their slow start.

They forced Utah into five turnovers during Saturday's 35-14 victory, their second straight game with five takeaways.  In their last four games, the Sun Devil defense has 17 takeaways.

Much like their last road game against Illinois, the Sun Devils struggled early, fell behind 7-0 and then rallied to force a stalemate that lasted most of the first half.  Part of that struggle included Sun Devil Alden Darby's third interception in the last two games on the first play of the second quarter.

However, Utah looked to break that monotony late in the half as they had the ball at the ASU 16 yard line. Utah's John Hays, making his first career start at the FBS level, lofted a pass into the end zone that was intercepted by safety Eddie Elder to thwart the Utes' threat. Elder, who dropped three easy interceptions a week ago, secured a halftime lead for the Devils.

Echoing the events of the USC game, Utah stormed back on the opening drive of the second half to take a lead. After they appeared stopped, the Utes faked a punt then used a flea-flicker to get inside the ASU five yard line, where they quickly scored the go ahead touchdown.

An ASU field goal on the ensuing possession cut the lead to 14-13, but the defense was just about to unleash their wrath on Utah.

On the first play of Utah's next possession, linebacker Shelly Lyons stripped running back John White IV, ASU recovered and soon Brock Osweiler found Mike Willie for a 14-yard touchdown to retake the lead.

The next Utah drive met the same fate. Hays' throw on the first play was picked off by safety Clint Floyd, and after a lumbering 25-yard run by Osweiler, Cameron Marshall punched in an uncontested touchdown run for pad the Devils' lead to 28-14.

The turnover well was next yet dry, as the next Utah drive ended with another fumble, this time recovered by Lyons.

As good teams do, the Sun Devils made their opponents pay for their ball control sins.

The ensuing 10-play drive was capped with another Osweiler to Willie connection, this time from 12-yards to extend the score to the eventual final score of 35-14.

ASU (5-1, 3-0 in the Pac-12) now travels for the toughest game of the season at Autzen Stadium to face the Oregon Ducks (4-1, 2-0) in a possible conference title game preview. With the Ducks' star running back LaMichael James out for the game, another multi-turnover effort from the ASU defense could key another huge road win.

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ASU vs. Utah Final Score: Sun Devils Force Turnovers, Defeat Utes 35-14

ASU got off to a slow start against Utah on Saturday afternoon, as the Utes took a 14-10 lead in the third quarter. Up to that point, Brock Osweiler looked hesitant, declining to go for the big play and relying too much on the swing passes (which Utah covered quite well).

A slew of Utah turnover turned the tide, as the Sun Devils scored 25 points in the second half to key a 35-14 rout of the Utes in Salt Lake City.

Utah quarterback Jon Hays threw three interceptions and the Utes had five total turnovers as inconsistent play finally got the best of the home team. The ASU defense really picked up the offense today, showing Osweiler and company that they can perform at a high level in an intimidating venue.

The confidence and swagger of Arizona State was evident as the turnovers piled up. The penalty count was high - 17 penalties between the two teams, adding up to 148 total yards.

Osweiler completed 25 passes for 325 yards and three touchdowns. Senior wideout Gerell Robinson had a banner day, catching seven passes for 101 yards. Mike Willie caught two touchdown passes, with Cameron Marshall and Jamal Miles also hitting paydirt.

With the win, Arizona State improves to 5-1, taking a commanding 3-0 Pac-12 record and leading the South division by a wide margin. It is far too early to call a winner in the South, but the Sun Devils would have to misstep horribly to lose this division. The Sun Devils now control their own destiny, heading to Oregon next Saturday in a game that will have championship-level implications.

After getting a big road win today and LaMichael James unlikely to play, the Devils have a real chance to defeat the Fighting Ducks.

For more on the Sun Devils, check out House Of Sparky.

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ASU Vs. Utah: Ute Turnovers Result In 28-14 Lead For Sun Devils

The second half began with Utah receiving the ball and looking to make amends for their lost opportunity at the end of the second quarter.

They seemed to strike a major blow when blown coverage by ASU's Alden Darby resulted in a 74-yard gain inside the Devils' five, but a holding penalty on tackle John Cullen negated the play and derailed the drive.

Or so it seemed.

A gutsy fake punt deep in their own territory gained 14 and kept the drive alive.  A flea flicker caught ASU off guard yet again and Jamarr Jarrett roughed Jon Hays on the throw to put Utah inside the Sun Devils' five yard line.  A pass interference call on Deveron Carr gave Utah first and goal at the two.  Hays then found Dallin Hays for a leaping touchdown to give the Utes a 14-10 lead.

ASU looked to answer back.  They marched to midfield where the drive faced a fourth and one and ASU went for it. Osweiler used his 6'8" frame to sneak it for the first down.  Three fruitless plays later presented another fourth down play and again the Devils went for it.  Osweiler dropped back, found nothing but scrambled for the first down.  However, they soon faced a fourth and eight from the Utah 17, and Alex Garoutte connected on a 35-yard field goal to cut the Utah lead to 14-13.

The pressure was on the defense to make a play and they wasted no time. On the first play, running back John White IV was stripped by Shelly Lyons and ASU recovered.

Osweiler then found Mike Willie for a huge 32-yard gain down to the Utah 12.  But he wasn't done.  Three plays later, Osweiler avoided the sack and sidearmed a 14-yard touchdown pass to Willie.  A Utah penalty on the extra point convinced Dennis Erickson to go for two, which was successful on a slant to Aaron Pflugrad.

Oh, but the defense wasn't done.

The Utes' first play was intercepted by safety Clint Floyd.   A manly 25-yard run by Osweiler set up an easy four yard tocuhdown run by Cameron Marshall to extend the lead to 28-14.

Some tough Utah runs moved their drive into ASU territory as the quarter came to a close.

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ASU vs. Utah: Halftime Report, Devils Lead Utes 10-7

Not much scoring in this one, as the Sun Devils and Utes are locked in an epic defensive struggle.

With a few moments remaining in the second quarter, Cameron Marshall and ASU finally started moving the ball on the ground. The Utes put together a strong defensive stand in the red zone to hold the Sun Devils to a field goal. 

Utes quarterback Jon Hays was impressive in his first NCAA start, though his inexperience cost Utah some important points at the end of the half. Hays is fast can make plays happen on the run.

Brock Osweiler completed 15 of 26 pass attempts for 153 yards, though he looked erratic and slightly nervous in the pocket against the Utes and their rowdy crowd.

Gerell Robinson led the Devils with 59 receiving yards on three catches. Eddie Elder and Alden Darby both have interceptions for the Sun Devils (4-1, 2-0). Jamal Miles has the lone touchdown for ASU.

Josh Hubner has been busy for ASU, kicking five punts and averaging 40 yards per punt.

The Utes will receive the ball at the start of the second half, and with a three point lead ASU must get over the jitters and play some strong football in every aspect of their game.

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ASU Cornerback Osahon Irabor Shaken Up Against Utah

On the final play of the first quarter against the Utah Utes, ASU cornerback Osahon Irabor was shaken up after making the tackle.

Utah ran a reverse, and Irabor was the only player around to make a tackle. He dove headfirst, leading with his helmet to take out the Utes player at the legs.

Irabor stayed down in what appeared to be a preventative measure. After he stood up, it was clear that he was in pain. It could be a minor issue, such as a bad stinger. Neck injuries, even small ones, have a way of manifesting themselves in the future.

The ASU secondary is already depleted, and losing Irabor for even a few possessions could be a bad thing. Fortunately, on the next play of the game, Irabor's replacement, Alden Darby, intercepted a Jon Hays pass to give the Devils the ball at their own 15 yard line.

For more on the Devils, check out House of Sparky.

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ASU Vs. Utah: 4th And Goal - The Keys To A Sun Devil Victory

Could the Pac-12 South be decided in Week 6?

If Arizona State could happen to pull off a big road victory in Salt Lake City on Saturday against the Utah Utes, any drama this race could hold would be put to bed. 

A win would move ASU 3-0 in conference and dropped Utah to 0-3.  With the struggles of the rest of the division and the ineligibility of USC, it would take a historic collapse by the Devils to not be playing on December 2nd for the conference title.

But first things first.  Utah is a desperate team that knows their very season could hang in the balance on Saturday.  Despite injuries, they still have a very talented roster and while be playing before a very raucous crowd at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

How can ASU overcome their well-documented road struggles and score the win in Utah?

1st - Stop the Run

Utah's top weapon, even before the injury to starting quarterback Jordan Wynn, was running back John White.  He's been inconsistent this season, with a pair of big games (150 yards against Montana State and 174 yards and three touchdowns against BYU) mixed in with two games in which he failed to top 60 yards.  Nevertheless, he's a talented speedster who can create major problems for ASU if he can get to the second level.

It will be crucial for ASU's front seven to keep White in check.  They've had their share of difficulty in stopping the run this season (see Marc Tyler). 

Should they be successful in shutting down the Ute running game, it will force the game onto Jon Hays' shoulders, which leads us to 2nd down...

2nd - Force Hays into Turnovers

With Jordan Wynn sidelined for two to three weeks, Jon Hays takes over the quarterbacking duties for Utah. Coming up from the junior college level, Hays initially signed to play at Nebraska-Omaha before they dropped the football program and he ended up in Utah.

This will be Hays' first start at the FBS level and his passing skills are unpolished, at best.  He is a threat running the ball, something ASU has struggled with of late, but he's not the caliber of athlete as Nathan Scheelhaase or James Franklin.

He'll be facing an ASU defense that has forced nine turnovers over the last two games.  If they can force the game onto Hays, that turnover total should continue to grow.

3rd - Get the Utes into 3rd Down

It's only appropriate for the third point to revolve around third down.

When it comes to defensive effectiveness on third down, there are no better unit's in the nation than Arizona State.  The Sun Devils have only allowed 16 of 66 3rd downs to succeed, a sterling conversion rate of only 24.2%.

Conversely, the Ute offense has struggled in sustaining drives.  They rank a miserable 104th, having only converted 17 of 51 chances (33.3%).  The majority of those chances took place while they still had their starting quarterback Jordan Wynn healthy.

Look for the Devils to keep up their success in this area.  With an inexperienced quarterback, the Sun Devils will attack. Defensive ends Jamarr Jarrett and Davon Coleman have each played very well lately and will have a challenge with Utah's talented tackles Tony Bergstrom and John Cullen.  If ASU can win this battle, look for multiple turnovers coming from Hays.

4th - Block for Brock

The Sun Devils' only loss of the season was a direct result of poor pass protection that resulted in critically high numbers in both sacks and turnovers.

With center Garth Gerhart and left tackle Evan Finkenberg out, that concern is at the forefront once again.

Utah has seven sacks on the season, but only two have come from the defensive line. ASU's blocking schemes must account for blitzes from linebackers and defensive backs or else risk encountering the same fate as their last road game.

If they can protect quarterback Brock Osweiler, look for him to have a field day against a Ute secondary featuring new starters at every position.

Goal - Execute

A recurring theme in many of these games is that on paper, the Sun Devils are clearly the better team.  In most every position area except for offensive line, ASU has a clear advantage in this game.  That means that should they execute their gameplan they should walk out of Rice-Eccles Stadium with a major victory.

Easier said than done. 

As has far too often been the case, ASU is their own worst enemy.  After getting their penalties under control lately, it was a propensity for turnovers that nearly derailed them last week.

The Sun Devils cannot continue to play such a perilous type of game and expect to win each week.

Prediction: 31-21 ASU

For more in-depth analysis of this game, listen to Speak of the Devils, the premier ASU podcast, now on iTunes.

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