Oct. 2, 2001
A 'Healey's Highlights' recap of the ASU-San Jose State football game
How best to sum up ASU's 53-15 football victory over San Jose State this past weekend? Perhaps the phrase 'taking care of business' will suffice. As was the case with San Diego State in the season-opening contest three weeks before, the Sun Devils confronted a less-talented foe in San Jose State and did what you would expect a Pac-10 team to do, playing at home against a representative of the Western Athletic Conference. They dominated. They took care of business.
The Devils didn't exactly paint a 'Picasso' against the Spartans. The offense coughed up three turnovers, including a lost fumble on a first-and-goal from the San Jose State one-yard line, while SJSU quarterback Marcus Arroyo orchestrated a short passing game that totalled 272 yards, with no completion longer than 23 yards, against the ASU defense. Still, I think you must tip your hat to coordinator Brent Guy's defense, which accomplished its number one objective Saturday night, holding San Jose State's sensational running back Deonce Whitaker to a staggering minus-six rushing yards in only nine attempts. This is the same Whitaker who last year compiled 1,577 yards, fourth-best in the nation, and led all Division one-A backs in 2000 by averaging seven yards a carry. To put it in perspective, Whitaker last year rushed for 147 yards in just 15 carries against mighty Nebraska. Against ASU, nine rushes didn't even get him back to the line of scrimmage!
In addition, the Sun Devil defense forced five San Jose State turnovers, including interceptions by cornerbacks Adrian Thomas and Lamar Baker. For Baker and safety Jason Shivers, the San Jose State game marked their ASU starting debuts, and both true freshmen performed creditably (Shivers was the Devils' third-leading tackler Saturday night with five stops). The experience gained now by Shivers, Baker and several other freshmen Devil defenders (such as cornerback Emmanuel Franklin and safeties Riccardo Stewart and Michael Holloway) will only serve to benefit them and the team in the weeks (not to mention years) to come.
Offensively, sophomore Jeff Krohn continues to excel as the triggerman for Dirk Koetter's offense. Krohn threw for four more touchdowns against San Jose State, giving him 11 in the season's first three games. Only the 1970 Sun Devils (quarterbacked primarily by Joe Spagnola) ever had as many TD passes after three games. Krohn was sacked twice and picked off twice against San Jose State, but his overall play has been superb. Not only has Jeff completed nearly 63% of his passes, but dating back to last season, he's only thrown nine interceptions in 348 attempts. If carried through for a full season, that .026 interception percentage would rank as the lowest in Arizona State history.
As good as Krohn was on Saturday, two other Devils made an even bigger splash against San Jose State. Delvon Flowers looked like the Delvon of 1999 in rushing for 159 yards and one touchdown in 21 carries. On one fourth-quarter scoring drive, Delvon did all the work by himself, carrying the ball all 10 plays and 81 yards, capping it off with his first touchdown run since the '99 Arizona game. The Sun Devils' ground attack had been sporadic in the season's first two games, but showed signs of coming to life Saturday, though it should be noted that San Jose State is one of the nation's worst run defense teams.
The night's biggest and brightest star, however, was the unlikeliest of ASU heroes. Since transferring to ASU from Phoenix College in 1999, senior wideout Ryan Dennard was better known for his gridiron bloodlines than he was for his accomplishments on the field. The nephew of former ASU receiver Glenn Dennard (1981-85) and son of former NFL wideout Preston Dennard, Ryan had caught only 12 passes, including one touchdown, in 1999 and 2000. However, against San Jose State, the Albuquerque, N.M., product enjoyed the game of his collegiate lifetime, catching three touchdown passes from Krohn, and scoring a fourth on a 38-yard fumble return that was easily the play of the game. Hit just as he launched a pass toward Shaun McDonald, Krohn saw his aerial picked off by the Spartans' Alex Wallace, who, in turn, was stripped of the ball by McDonald. Like a vulture hovering over a carcass, Dennard was alertly on the scene in a heartbeat to scoop up the loose pigskin and take it 'to the house.' Said coach Koetter of Dennard's performance, 'just on a personal note, I'm very happy for Ryan because nobody has put more time since we got here....that guy comes early and stays late to work on his game.' For the record (books), Dennard's four-touchdown-in-one-game performance was only the 14th in Sun Devil history, and first since Terry Battle recorded a pair of four- touchdown games in 1996. The ASU single-game record for touchdowns is five, shared by Ben Malone (1973), Leon Burton (1955) and Whizzer White ( 1950).
Collectively, the biggest improvement in Saturday's game came from the Devils' special teams, which were a thousand times better than in the season's first two contests. ASU averaged over 27 yards on six punt and kickoff returns, including a 29-yard punt return by electrifying freshman Daryl Lightfoot and a 49-yard kickoff return by Mike Williams. The Sun Devils' 53-point explosion basically gave punter Nick Murphy the night off, but his only kick was a 51-yarder that left San Jose State at its own seven-yard line. Meanwhile, place-kicker Mike Barth continues to be nearly automatic, having made nine straight field goals (including a 31-yarder Saturday) and 34 consecutive PATs, while he consistently booms his kickoffs into, or out of the end zone.
All in all, it was a very businesslike effort by Dirk's Devils. They were obviously efficient, yet, as Koetter said afterward, 'we're all a little bit frustrated in the fact that we know we can and have to play better than that.' This coming Saturday night would be a good time to start, as a first-time Arizona State opponent, the Ragin' Cajuns of Louisiana-Lafayette, visits Tempe. It'll be ASU's final non-conference game of 2001, and another opportunity for the Sun Devils to 'take care of business.'
Tim Healey is the radio play-by-play voice of ASU football for the Sun Devil Sports Network. Tim's e-mail address is: email@example.com.