While the offensive display was a sight to see, the real attraction on Thursday night was Arizona State's impressive defense. Through three quarters, the Sun Devils held the UC Davis Aggies scoreless, destroying any semblance of a running game while forcing the Aggies to throw for marginal gains.
It's safe to say that the first three quarters were a true representation of how dominant the defense can be: the Aggies actually lost four yards on the ground through three frames, while only 86 yards were gained through passing. UC Davis managed only five first downs.
In the fourth quarter, more reserves got playing time for the Sun Devils, which allowed UC Davis to score 14 points, pick up 92 rushing yards and pick up 7 first downs in the process.
Can't help but be satisfied with the performance given by the front four. Bo Moos picked up four tackles and William Sutton was a disruption up the middle. Junior Onyeali made two tackles in the backfield and also picked up a sack, showing flashes of potential to become a big contributor to the defense in 2011.
Most importantly, the defensive line overpowered UC Davis on every play. They collapsed the pocket on Randy Wright consistently, and by halftime Wright was fully expecting to be hit on every pass attempt. His rushed mannerisms on the field tell you all you need to know: the defensive line was putting on a clinic.
Vontaze Burfict had a career night, collecting three sacks while committing zero penalties. He appeared in control of his emotions and led the defense with passion and speed. Burfict appears to be spending more time in blitz packages, coming off the blind side and blowing past the offensive line to get to the opposing quarterback.
Burfict will force teams to have a blocker in the backfield, limiting their options downfield. With the injuries to the secondary, ASU will rely on Burfict more than ever to be that equalizer in the front seven. #7 added three tackles, all for a loss.
Colin Parker, the new starting outside linebacker, racked up five tackles and looked like a natural fit alongside Burfict and Shelly Lyons. Lyons only made two tackles, but his presence was felt. Lyons nearly had an interception that could easily have been returned for a touchdown, but it went through his hands and fell to the ground. In the future, he must step up and make that play.
Oliver Aaron came off the bench to make four tackles and record a sack, providing much-needed depth to the linebacker position.
The only point of concern for ASU in 2011 on defense is the secondary, which lost Omar Bolden during the offseason. Freshman Ezekiel Bishop was injured on Thursday, tearing his ACL. The lack of depth could really be exposed if the front seven is unable to blitz effectively moving forward.
Against UC Davis, Alden Darby played well, making seven tackles. He gave up the Aggies' lone big passing play of the game, a 38-yard strike from Wright to Tom Hemmingsen which set up UC Davis' first touchdown.
Eddie Elder made three tackles, Deveron Carr had a pass deflection and Osahon Irabor made a pair of tackles as well. They largely avoided giving up the big play, as the front seven was swarming the pocket all night long. If James Franklin has time on Friday night, he may be able to pick apart the secondary. That's up to the coaches and linebackers to solve.
In total, the team put together a very solid defensive performance. While imperfect, they showed a lot of speed, confidence and ability. The run defense is incredible, while the passing defense can only get better.