November 16, 2008

Notebook: Nixon leads defense in shutout

Anytime a defense holds its opponent scoreless, there has to be at least one player who stepped up and led the defense.

There were a number of defenders who had big nights in Arizona State's 31-0 win over Washington State, but none was as impressive as linebacker Mike Nixon.

"Mike is really football smart," coach Dennis Erickson said. "He just makes plays and knows where to be. We know that in practice when we go against him. He'll see our offense and know exactly what we're doing.

"That's how he plays. He gets interceptions that way. He makes big plays like that. He's a real leader."

Nixon led the team with six tackles, two for a loss, and recorded his fourth interception of the season Saturday night.

"I think I've been fairly assignment-sound," Nixon said. "Being in the WILL position in this defense, you saw what Rob James was able to do last year. They put you in positions where, if you're in the right spot you're going to make plays.

"I've just tried to be sound and let the plays come to me and when they have just make them."

Nixon has been the Sun Devils' most consistent defender all season and leads the team in picks and tackles - but he isn't complacent.

Nixon knows there are still areas of his game he can improve upon and is constantly striving to make his game better.

"When you look and you're 4-6 in the big picture and at the end of each game you go back and you look you can always do a little better," he said. "Overall I'm satisfied with how I've played but I feel like I could play better personally."

Sack master

Nixon wasn't the only ASU defender with a big night against the Cougars.

Defensive end Dexter Davis had two sacks against WSU, bringing his season total to nine.

The second time Davis hit Cougar quarterback Kevin Lopina, he knocked Lopina out of the game and WSU was forced to use backup J.T. Levenseller for the final 32 minutes.

"That's the best pass coverage there is," Nixon said of Davis' sacks. "Dexter, [Luis Vasquez], all those guys up the middle, they do a great job. Especially Dexter off that edge."

In his career, Davis has 25.5 sacks leaving him just half of a sack shy of fourth on ASU's all-time list.

Moving on up

Rudy Carpenter is near the top of most ASU and Pac-10 quarterback record lists.

Saturday, Carpenter moved past Washington's Cody Pickett for eighth all-time in passing yards.

The next person Carpenter will pass on that list is former Sun Devil Andrew Walter.

Injury update

Right tackle Shawn Lauvao injured his left ankle in the first quarter and did not return.

He was wearing a walking boot on the injured ankle after the game.
Tom Njunge replaced Lauvao and played the rest of the night.

Old school

In commemorating the 50th season of Sun Devil Stadium, ASU's helmets donned the decal that the team wore from 1976-1979.

The decal was a maroon sun with ASU spelled out in gold in the middle.

The players didn't seem to mind the change with Carpenter saying, "my helmet fits the same," and wide receiver Kyle Williams adding, "it didn't make too much of a difference, we still had to go play football."

Nixon liked the results the defense had in the retro helmets and joked that they may have been they key to the shutout.

"If it gets us shutouts we might as well stick with it," he said. "I liked them."

Extra points

  • Kicker Thomas Weber's second quarter field goal marked the first time the Sun Devils put points on the scoreboard before their opponent since facing UNLV on Sept. 13.

  • ASU had two first-time starters in the lineup Saturday.

    Garth Gerhart started at left guard and Paul 'Unga started in place of the injured David Smith at defensive tackle.

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