Iowa Defense Too Strong For Sun Devils

Sept 20, 2003

By Nate Policar
ASU Sports Information

The 16th-ranked Arizona State Sun Devils (2-1) came into the game looking to start the season at 3-0 for the first time since the 2000 campaign. But, the No. 14/18 Iowa Hawkeyes (4-0) had other plans for the afternoon. The Hawkeye defense shut out the ASU offense---a feat that had not been accomplished since USC defeated the Sun Devils 31-0 in 1995---and Iowa went on to prevail 21-2.

The Sun Devils put their only points of the game on the board in the first quarter, when Iowa quarterback Nathan Chandler mishandled a snap. After recovering it, he was drilled by ASU junior safety Riccardo Stewart, jarring the ball loose again. ASU senior safety Brett Hudson grabbed it this time, advancing the ball to the Iowa 1-yard line before fumbling where Brian Ferentz, an offensive lineman for Iowa, fell on the ball in the end zone, to give the Sun Devils a safety and their only lead of the game at 2-0. It was an uphill battle from there for the Sun Devils, whose offense struggled to find a rhythm.

'It was the first time since I've been in this offense that I felt like we never got it going,' said ASU senior Skyler Fulton. 'Our defense played really well. If our offense shows up, everyone's not so disappointed.'

After trading punts on the next two possessions, ASU looked ready to take command of the game after junior safety Jason Shivers intercepted a pass from Chandler in Iowa territory, returning it 15 yards to the 21-yard line. The Sun Devils could not push it through the red zone, however, as two plays later, Iowa cornerback Jovon Johnson cancelled out the ASU interception with one of his own, picking off a pass from ASU quarterback Andrew Walter at the Iowa goal line and returning it 14 yards. With 5:21 remaining in the first quarter, that would prove to be the closest ASU would get to the end zone for the remainder of the game.

After trading punts for the rest of the first quarter, the Hawkeyes broke the game open in the second, starting with a 63-yard drive for a score. Receiving a punt on their own 37-yard line, the Hawkeyes had little difficulty moving the ball. Chandler found the end zone for the Hawkeyes, connecting with receiver Ramon Ochoa for a 40-yard touchdown pass, to give Iowa a 7-2 lead.

The Sun Devils went three-and-out for the remaining 7:43 of the first half, enabling Iowa to build on its lead. After a punt found them in their own territory, the Hawkeyes went to work again as Chandler completed three passes for 38 yards, including a two-yard touchdown pass to receiver Erik Jensen, leaving Iowa with a 14-2 lead that they would take to the break.

'The main turning point was the last eight minutes of the second quarter,' said ASU head coach Dirk Koetter. 'I thought we lost our confidence for a couple of plays on defense. In the meantime, our offense couldn't get out of its own shadow.'

Iowa started the second half with another big play. After holding the Sun Devils to another three-and-out on offense, Iowa tailback Fred Russell broke off a 38-yard run, bringing the ball all the way down to the ASU 11-yard line. Two plays later, Chandler found Ochoa on a three-yard pass for his second touchdown of the game, pushing the margin to 21-2 in favor of Iowa.

With their backs against the wall, the Sun Devils made a push for the end zone with the third quarter drawing to a close. With the help of two Iowa penalties, Walter moved the Sun Devils down to the Iowa 20-yard line, before the drive stalled with a holding penalty. Calling on true freshman kicker Jesse Ainsworth, the Sun Devils attempted a 43-yard field goal, their first of the year, but it sailed wide to the right, resulting in a change of possession.

The game ended with a quiet fourth quarter, as Iowa ran the ball on the Sun Devil defense, chewing up 8:37 of the clock in the final frame. ASU senior defensive tackle Shane Jones recovered an Iowa fumble on the Iowa 43-yard line, but ASU had to give up the ball on a punt following a sack on quarterback Andrew Walter, just the third one of the year surrendered by the ASU offensive line.

'It was exactly the type of game we thought it would be,' Koetter said. 'I thought our defense and special teams did their part. To beat a team like Iowa, you need to be patient and, on many occasions, we lost our patience.'

In addition to his interception, junior Jason Shivers led the defense with 17 tackles. The ASU defense took down Iowa quarterback Chandler in the backfield four times, with sophomores Matt Fawley and Nick Johnson, redshirt freshman Jordan Hill, and junior Jimmy Verdon each notching a sack. On the other side of the ball, Walter finished with 160 yards passing on 25-of-44. He hooked up with sophomore receiver Matt Miller seven times for a gain of 45 yards and threw four receptions to senior fullback Mike Karney for a gain of 36 yards.

SUN DEVIL GAME NOTES: ASU scored first for the second straight week, marking just the seventh time in 17 games that the team has scored first... Jason Shivers' first quarter interception made him the fifth different player to pick off a pass this season... Shivers also tied his career high in tackles with 17, the most since he had 17 vs. Washington on Oct. 27, 2001... ASU's offensive output of 184 yards was their lowest in the Dirk Koetter era and the fewest yards since the Sun Devils gained only 174 yards in a 29-7 loss to Stanford on Nov. 11, 2000... ASU's two-point performance was the team's first game without a touchdown since the 1999 Aloha Bowl, which they lost to Wake Forest, 23-3, scoring only a field goal.

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