Sun Devils Fall To No. 10 Nebraska, 48-10
Aug 24, 2002
by Travis Breedlove, ASU Sports Information
Having the earliest start to their season in school history, Arizona State (0-1) traveled to Lincoln, Nebraska to battle the nationally ranked Cornhuskers of Nebraska (1-0) in the Black Coaches Association Classic.
The Cornhuskers had to replace half of their starters on offense from last year including 2001 Heisman Trophy winner Eric Crouch. Jammal Lord, who had the unenviable task of replacing Crouch at quarterback, started his first game for Nebraska and proved any doubters wrong.
The Sun Devils had similar problems with only one returning offensive lineman and redshirt freshman quarterback Chad Christensen taking his first collegiate snap. Christensen however felt, 'as the game went along, the offensive line started playing better and moving the ball.'
In the end it was miscues on the Sun Devils special teams that led to them falling to the Cornhuskers 48-10, extending their losing streak to six games going back to last season. 'You are not going to beat teams like Nebraska getting two punts blocked,' said head coach Dirk Koetter after his team's loss.
Nebraska jumped out to an early 3-0 lead by taking their opening drive 56-yards in 10 plays, capped off by a field goal by Cornhusker kicker Josh Brown. Chad Christensen, who completed 6 of his16 passes for 77 yards in his debut as a Sun Devil, showed great poise early for someone who had never taken a college snap and calmly completed his first pass in a Sun Devil uniform to Shaun McDonald for a 14-yard gain and a first down. After that drive sputtered at the Nebraska 46 ASU punted the ball away and Nebraska got a touchback. The Sun Devil defense, who was led in tackles on the day by Jason Shivers with 16, then forced Nebraska to go three and out and the punt by Kyle Larson went out of bounds at the ASU 47. Christensen then led a drive down to the Huskers' 16 and the Sun Devils' Mike Barth hit a 33-yard field goal to tie the game at three apiece. This drive would mark one of only two times in the game that ASU's offense managed to make it into the Nebraska red zone.
As the first quarter ended with the teams knotted at three, Nebraska was facing fourth down with three yards to go from the ASU 32-yard line. Nebraska head coach Frank Solich decided to bring his offense back on to go for it on fourth down and Jammal Lord answered with an eight-yard run down the left for the first down and gained a further seven yards on the next play. The Huskers were then standing on the ASU 17 facing a second and three situation, and ASU was guilty of a face masking penalty on the play which brought Nebraska to first and goal on the Sun Devils' six. Judd Davies scored on a two-yard run two plays later and, after the extra point, the Cornhuskers held a 10-3 advantage with 12:53 remaining in the half.
For the rest of the first half the teams exchanged punts as neither team could establish their offense. Koetter brought on Andrew Walter for the Sun Devils' last possession of the quarter in hopes of getting a touchdown to tie the score going into the locker room, but ASU was not able to close the gap and the half ended with the score being the closest it would be for the rest of the night.
With ASU receiving the kickoff, the second half got off to a bad start as the return was only to their own six-yard line. ASU could not take advantage of a five-yard penalty on Nebraska for a substitution infraction when Christensen was sacked for a nine-yard loss on third down. Fourth down brought up a punting situation from the Devils own one-yard line and Tim Parker's punt only went for 19 yards, giving the Huskers first down on the ASU 20. Six plays later Jammal Lord completed his first touchdown pass in a Nebraska uniform and ASU was down 17-3. The next possession was no better for the Devils and after three plays they were facing a fourth and 20 from their own ten-yard line. This time Tim Parker's punt was blocked and Scott Shanle scooped it up for the Huskers and raced into the end zone, giving the Huskers a 24-3 lead with just over five minutes into the second half.
After the teams exchanged punts on the next two possessions, ASU found themselves in good field position on the Nebraska 49 with 5:21 left in the third quarter. Andrew Walter took the helm for the Sun Devils and immediately hit Shaun McDonald for a nine-yard gain to the Nebraska 40. Just three plays later Mike Williams busted through the middle of the Nebraska defense for a 34-yard touchdown run which closed the Sun Devils to within two touchdowns.
The third quarter ended with the score 24-10 and once the fourth quarter started the Cornhuskers exploded. After Nebraska's drive in the beginning of the quarter faltered, the Sun Devil's possession that followed produced three straight incomplete passes and a punt. Nebraska then began on their own 48 and worked their way down to the ASU 24 where they converted a field goal to make it 27-10.
The grip the Sun Devils had on the game was slipping away and the next possession would personify their frustration. Starting from the his own 20-yard line, Andrew Walter hit freshman Derek Hagan for a nine-yard gain setting up a second and one. Mike Williams then gained 20 more of his 77 yards on a run down the left, putting his team at midfield. On the ensuing play, Walter was sacked and lost control of the football. ASU's Damien Niko recovered the ball at his own 32 for a loss of 17 yards on the play. After a pass for a loss of six, ASU faced a third and 33 situation from their own 26. An incomplete pass forced a punt and Nebraska again came up with a block that the Huskers returned to the ASU nine. Two rushes from Dahrran Diedrick later and the Cornhuskers were up 34-10.
After the Sun Devils gave the ball back on downs Nebraska drove down the field 55-yards in a little over 3 minutes and capped it off with a 34-yard rushing touchdown by Cory Ross. After the extra point the Cornhuskers held a 41-10 lead.
The next series added to the Cornhuskers lead as Andrew Goodenough came in for his first snap as a Sun Devil at his own 20-yard line and threw an interception to Nebraska's heralded freshman corner Fabian Washington who returned it 29-yards for a touchdown. Nebraska kicker Josh Brown added the extra point to bring the score to 48-10, which was the final score.
'They came out today with a point to prove,' said Mike Williams regarding Nebraska's final two games of last year when they gave up 99 points.
Following the game head coach Dirk Koetter was very pleased with the way the defense played saying, 'we had eight tackles for losses and three sacks, but we gave up three (big) plays.' Koetter also had praise for Riccardo Stewart who set career highs in tackles and tackles for a loss. 'If you want to watch a guy that flies all over and plays hard, Riccardo was all over the place.'
'I thought we started well and showed we can compete,' Christensen said of the team's performance. 'We let it slide with a blocked punt. Then Nebraska poured it on.'ASU Senior linebacker Solomon Bates summed it up best, 'there are a lot of things you can take from this game and a lot of things you have to put behind you. We have 12 more weeks. We'll be fine.'
GAME NOTES: Terrell Suggs moved into fifth place on the ASU career sacks list with his second quarter sack of Jammal Lord...Ricardo Stewart set career highs in tackles and tackles for loss, he also recorded his first tackle for a loss in his career vs. the Huskers...ASU tied a school record with two blocked punts in a game (1984 and again in 1953)...The Sun Devils streak of three straight season-opening wins was broken with the loss to Nebraska...ASU had eight redshirt freshman and four true freshman play versus the Huskers