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September 19, 2010
Special teams succeed, fail for Sun Devils
MADISON, Wisc. -- After two back-to-back field goal attempts were missed on both teams' opening drives, it took Wisconsin six plays, 48 yards and about three minutes to score three points.
Omar Bolden and Arizona's State took 20 seconds to respond.
Bolden broke away for a 97-yard kickoff return, longest in Camp Randall history, to take lead before the end of the first quarter.
"The rest of my teammates set up the blocks and I just did what I was coached to do," Bolden said. "I just hit the seam and once I passed the kicker it was six (points) from there."
Arizona State tuned in early on Wisconsin's method of defending returned plays.
"We saw that they like to crash down so we thought if we take the return straight up and then go whatever direction we wanted to take, we could get them so that's what we did," Bolden said.
The special teams' efforts, with the supporting role of speedy returners, aided in creating opportunities for Sun Devils to score.
However, scoring was the difficult part.
What appeared to be another huge opportunity, Jamal Miles's long punt return into Wisconsin territory, was called back to the ten yard line due to an illegal blocking penalty by Sun Devil Eddie Elder.
With ten seconds left in the first half, Kyle Middlebrooks maneuvered through the open field finding gaps and breaking away for a 95-yard return -- one yard shy of a touchdown, with no time left on the clock.
"The sad thing is special teams-wise, we dominated the football game," Erickson said. "It was unbelievable the things we did on special teams. We've improved so much there. We've got some skill guys there. We were one step away (from a touchdown) just before the half."
"I was just running trying to get to the ball," Wisconsin's safety Shelton Johnson said. "Des (Southward) slowed him up enough that I could get to him and make the play. I was thinking, 'No, don't let this happen again.' That would have been really deflating going into halftime. I was just hoping I got to him, and thankfully I did."
Despite the misfortune in the first half, the well-coached unit by Jamie Christian continued to create multiple chances for the Sun Devils to come away with points.
Early on in the second half, Deantre Lewis broke free on a play that could have equaled into a Sun Devil touchdown. Lewis, however, was tripped up on the play on ASU's 34.
"I got caught up in T.J. [Simpson]'s feet because I tried to maneuver around him and I just didn't see what way he was going and his foot caught with mine," Lewis said. "I thought I was going to score but it didn't go my way that time"
With about six minutes left in the game, sophomore running back Cameron Marshall's touchdown led to a blocked extra point attempt by Badgers' Jay Valai.
"That block that we put on there was the only time it's been called," Badger head coach Bret Bielema said. "We've done a little different thing with putting Ricky Wagner and Gabe Carimi in there. We've put two big bodies. Their wing-span is off the charts. Their wing-span probably taller than I am. We put those guys in there and they've been blowing up the line pretty good and covering down with everyone else, and then this one, Jay took advantage of the opportunity he got and put his hand on the ball. It was awesome."
"The PAT block is normally unheard of in college football," Erickson said. "But we had a chance to get the ball back and kick a field goal to win the game."
Good as it may have been, ASU's special teams still didn't do enough.