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April 20, 2008

Defense takes control in Spring Game

Thomas Weber's 46-yard field goal on the final play of the Spring Game helped Arizona State's white-clad first-team offense salvage a 17-17 draw with the maroon squad on Saturday at Sun Devil Stadium in front of an estimated 3,000 onlookers.

"It ended up kind of like you want to end the spring game," coach Dennis Erickson said of Weber's kick. "I had a vote. Nobody wanted to go into overtime including me.

"We were a little rusty at times. I don't think we threw and caught it like we need to. A lot of improvement needs to be made there. But, I thought as far as the overall spring, we made a lot of progress. Today was fun. It ended up like we wanted it to end up. I didn't think we were probably as sharp as we need to be offensively."

With starting receivers Mike Jones, Chris McGaha and tight end Dane Guthrie unavailable, the first-team offense found itself unable to sustain drives on an afternoon that saw defense clearly win out.

Rudy Carpenter completed just 7-of-21 pass attempts with one touchdown, a 43-yard strike to Brandon Smith.

"People overrate a spring game. I overrate it," Erickson said. "Obviously Rudy (Carpenter) wasn't on today as much as he could have been, but he's had a great spring. He's our quarterback, and he's made so much improvement with his delivery and all the different things he's doing."

The scrimmage was designed so the No. 1 offense (in white) and No. 1 defense (in maroon) would play each other, as would the No. 2 offense (maroon) and No. 2 defense (white).

Linebacker Gerald Munns led the first-team defense with 11 tackles, capping an excellent spring a just days after he was singled out by Erickson for his overall performance of late.

"I really tried to cut back on bad weight and slim down so I could run a little faster, move a bit more freely and also work on my eyes and hands," Munns said after his performance. "A few of the things I worked on in the last few months I think showed in the spring and today but you can't get too comfortable with it. There is a lot more I need to continue to work on."

First-team weakside linebacker Mike Nixon also had a solid performance, which included a diving interception of Carpenter. Backup Colin Parker had a solid showing as well with a fumble recovery and pass deflection, and reserve MIKE Morris Wooten had the hit of the day, on Lance Evbuomwan

"We came out and really shut down the run especially in the first half," Nixon said of his maroon squad. "We've got three guys (at linebacker) we can trust. We know where each other are going to be out, and that helps us play faster.

"We were kind of learning on the fly last year so we really made our strides in the summer, not really in the spring. If we can make strides again this summer, we'll be way ahead of where we were last fall."

The maroon squad scored the first touchdown of the day, on a 29-yard run up the by Shaun DeWitty, who had an excellent performance and was perhaps the offensive player of the game for either squad. DeWitty rushed for 71 yards on 13 carries.

The roster's top defensive standout may have been Jamarr Robinson, who had three sacks on the day, culminating an excellent spring in which he showed that he has the ability to be a capable backup to Dexter Davis at right end.

Perhaps most impressive about the job done by the defense is that it did not show any of the blitzing schemes that made such an impact at various scrimmage segments of practices in recent weeks.


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