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Sept. 20, 1997

BYU Tops Sun Devils in Defensive Struggle

Lenzie Jackson photo
Lenzie Jackson

The Arizona State Sun Devils, in their final non-conference game of the season, lost to the Brigham Young Cougars, 13-10, in a defensive contest before 62,376 fans at Sun Devil Stadium. ASU falls to a 2-1 record while BYU improves to 1-1.

ASU head coach Bruce Snyder said after the game, "To hold BYU to 13 points is an accomplishment. They are used to scoring 53 points. Every part of the team contributed to the loss, including my coaching staff and myself."

The Sun Devil secondary was tested by a pass-happy BYU offense. BYU went for the often, accounting for 328 yards through the air. The ASU defense, however, was not about to let the Cougars have their way. The Sun Devil defense limited BYU to only 11 yards rushing in the first half and 99 yards for the game. The Sun Devil "maroon zone" defense was even more impressive, forcing the BYU offense to fumble away a touchdown and blocking a field goal attempt inside ASU's 20-yard line during the third quarter. Time and time again, BYU marched down the field and was turned away inside ASU's 20-yard line.

ASU's offense once again distributed the ball evenly. They had 92 yards on the ground and 153 yards in the air. The tandem of Michael Martin and J.R. Redmond were held in check by BYU's defensive front-line, with Martin gaining 43 yards and one touchdown and Redmond rushing for 66 yards. Ryan Kealy held his ground against a fierce BYU pass defense. Kealy found himself having to thread many passes through a thick secondary. He finished with 153 yards, completing 12 of 29 passes and no touchdowns.

Kealy kept his chin up, stating, "We wanted to be undefeated, so one of our goals is lost. By no means is our season lost, though. We still want to make it to the Rose Bowl."

Criston Rance photo
Criston Rance. (Click photo for larger version)

The first half saw sloppy play from both teams with both teams fumbling twice. BYU fumbled the ball three more times in the second half for a total of five fumbles for the Cougars. Neither team was able make more than 40 percent of their third down conversions. BYU had the first chance to score, but kicker Owen Pochmani's 42-yard field goal attempt sailed just left of the uprights. ASU marched back down the field to set up their first score of the game, a season long 44-yard field goal by Robert Nycz. BYU had another chance to pull ahead again, but Pochman sent a 48-yard field goal attempt wide right.

The second quarter started with a BYU touchdown, capping a ten-play drive from the first quarter to push BYU ahead 7-3. The Sun Devils came back though, recovering BYU's first fumble, a mishandled punt by Aaron Roderick. ASU drove down the field and broke through to the end zone on a 1-yard Michael Martin run to take the lead again, 10-7. ASU's second fumble, a ball knocked loose by Brad Martin on a Ricky Boyer reverse, allowed BYU to come back down the field and tie the score with a 45-yard field goal by Owen Pochman. The teams entered half-time knotted at 10-10.

The intensity rose during the second half, as both teams scratched and clawed to get ahead. The third quarter saw no scoring as both defenses smothered the opposing offense. ASU's defense came on strong in the third, trying to give the Sun Devils some momentum with a big play. ASU strong safety Damien Richardson forced running back Brian McKenzie to cough up the ball at the ASU two-yard line. Linebacker Stephen Trejo quickly covered the ball.

Stephen Trejo photo
Stephen Trejo. (Click photo for larger version)

Later in the third quarter, ASU defensive tackle Albrey Battle blocked a 31-yard Pochman field goal attempt, which was subsequently recovered by defensive tackle Vince Amey. ASU has now recorded a block in four of its past five games. However, despite the intense defensive play by the Sun Devils, the tell-tale statistic for the half was passing yardage, as BYU blitzed the ASU secondary for 125 yards in the second half while ASU was only able to muster three yards in the air.

The only score during the second half came in near the end of the fourth quarter. BYU kicker Owen Pochman made up for the missed attempts earlier in the game by pushing his team ahead 13-10 with a 32-yard field goal.

ASU was unable to capitalize on its following possessions and BYU ran the game clock out to win the game.

BYU head coach LaVell Edwards said, "I had no second thoughts about kicking at the end. Our kicker is a fine kicker and he is going to have a fine career."

The loss is the first regular-season loss and first loss at home since November 24, 1995, when the University of Arizona defeated the Sun Devils 31-28. The game also marks the lowest point total by an ASU team since September 30, 1995 when ASU was defeated 31-0 at USC. On a more personal note, kicker Robert Nycz has connected on 73 straight extra points and 99 of 100 in his career. He has also made 28 of 38 field goals in his career.

The Sun Devils looked for positives out of the loss. Running back J.R. Redmond said it best after the game.

"A lot of people like to win," said Redmond. "If we learn to win, then we have to learn to lose, not to say we plan on losing often. The game is over. There's nothing we can do [about the score] now. Our motto is 'One At A Time' and we are going to stick to it. We are going to watch the tape and learn from this."

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