The Arizona State University Sun Devils defense walked onto the field Saturday night and stole the spotlight.
On a night where most focused on the quarterback position, where senior Danny Sullivan made his first start, the ASU defense became the center of attention as the Sun Devils overwhelmed the Idaho State Bengals 50-3 Saturday at Sun Devils Stadium.
The Sun Devils' most important squad stormed the Bengals' offense and made plays all night. With eyes admiring and emotions running, ASU, 1-0, held Idaho State, 0-1, to just 37 yards of total offense. The Bengals also committed five turnovers.
"Defensively, we totally dominated," ASU head coach Dennis Erickson told The Arizona Republic.
Mike Nixon (pictured) gave the Sun Devils a reason, at least for one night, to fall in love with the idea of a Pac-10 Conference title run. The senior linebacker was all over the field, recording three interceptions and a blocked punt. His second interception was returned 34 yards for a touchdown. He led the Pac-10 in interceptions a year ago, with five.
The offense sputtered early against an Idaho State defense that surrendered 41 points per a game last season. It's reason for concern. ASU's attack wasn't very efficient on third-down opportunities (4-of-14) and it committed eight penalties in the game. Any other night, that would have been the focus. However, for one week, all has been forgotten and forgiven after witnessing the defense give a performance worthy of Broadway. The linebackers swarmed to the football, the defensive line clogged gaps and provided pressure and the secondary was able to hold the Bengals to only nine completions on 20 attempts.
The ASU defense always seemed to be in the right place at the right time. It showed an ability to be efficient, explosive and opportunistic. Vontaze Burfict, a true freshman linebacker, displayed all three traits after making his debut in the third quarter. On his first series, Burfict blitzed and applied good pressure on Idaho State quarterback Russel Hill. Later in the drive, he recovered a fumble. He capped off his night with a sack.
The Florida Gators' offense didn't walk through that door, the Oklahoma Sooners didn't take the field nor did the USC Trojans enter the gates. Point taken. However, the Sun Devils took care of business and dominated when it should have. The defense, as expected, will be the strength. It has given the Sun Devils momentum. It has given them some excitment and belief.
There's a few words to describe feelings after tonight's performance. Encouraged. Excited. Optimistic. Those are all good ones. But on Saturday night, smitten was the best choice of them all.