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September 6, 2009

Dream-like performance by ASU defense in win

Don't call him Ms. Cleo, but Brandon Magee may have a future as a fortune teller.

Following Saturday's 50-3 win over Idaho State, the Arizona State sophomore linebacker let the media in on a little secret. Turns out Magee had a dream Friday night that spelled out Saturday's highlights.

"[Senior linebacker Mike Nixon] was my roommate today," Magee said. "And I woke up and I was like, 'Man, we going to get some picks today Nixon.' He looked at me like, 'No we're not.' But I was like, 'Yes we are Nixon. Watch, one of us is going to get picks.' And we got picks. It was a good dream."

Nixon fulfilled Magee's prophecy to the tune of three interceptions Saturday night, returning one for a 34-yard touchdown. Had his 26-year-old legs moved a little faster, Nixon could have had another touchdown in the fourth quarter.

"I told [wide receivers] coach [Eric] Yarber I could work the underneath stuff," Nixon joked. "But with my speed I won't stretch the 'D' much."

Nixon also added a blocked punt to his impressive opening night performance, but was the same humble presence in the postgame press conference.

While excited with Saturday's outcome, both the players and coach Dennis Erickson implicitly said Idaho State's talent level doesn't serve as the finest barometer to judge ASU by.

"We're a good defense," Erickson said. "We've got some depth and we weren't playing with all our weapons either. Nothing against Idaho State by any means … but we won't know until time goes on where we're at. I would have been disappointed if we wouldn't have dominated like that. I guess that's the best way to put it."

By halftime, ASU held a 23-0 lead while ISU had zero net yards and only one first down. And it could have been much more lopsided than that had the ASU receivers not dropped a pair of sure-fire touchdowns.

Senior wide receiver Kyle Williams was the guilty party near the end of the first quarter, dropping a no doubt 27-yard touchdown. Sophomore wide receiver Gerell Robinson did senior quarterback Danny Sullivan dirty right before intermission, dropping a five-yard would-be score.

In all, ASU had as many as seven dropped passes on the evening, and it's a shame for Sullivan. After serving his entire career as a backup, Sullivan finally laced up his cleats as the starter on Saturday. He finished 13-of-25 for 165 yards.

"That was a lot of fun out there," Sullivan said. "Coming out of that tunnel was pretty exciting; all the fog, fireworks, the band was running on the field. I calmed myself down finally at some point and finally got a win. I'm 1-0 and that's all that matters."

Given the offensive shortcomings, it was a busy day for junior kicker Thomas Weber, who went 5-for-6 to tie the school record for most field goals made in a game.

True to his word, Erickson used several running backs throughout the game, splitting 34 carries between five players. The Sun Devils racked up 199 yards on the ground, with no back receiving more than nine carries.

Senior Dimitri Nance (eight carries for 31 yards) was used exclusively to start the game and showed off some fancy footwork to score from nine yards out to start the second quarter. Nance was replaced by freshman Cameron Marshall early in the second quarter, while senior Shaun DeWitty, sophomore Ryan Bass and senior Jarrell Woods eventually saw some playing time as well.

DeWitty's 55 yards were tops in the group, while Bass had the day's most impressive run, a 38-yard touchdown near the end of the third quarter.

Marshall was one of five true freshmen to see the field in their collegiate debuts, along with defensive tackles Corey Adams and William Sutton, quarterback Brock Osweiler and linebacker Vontaze Burfict.

Offensively, Osweiler had the best day among the rookies, going 4-for-5 for 45 yards and a touchdown. Osweiler threw an absolute strike in between the safety and cornerback to record his first career score, a 16-yard connection with senior wide receiver Brian Matsumoto.

Defensively, though, all eyes were on Burfict. And boy, did he show up big.

Just hours after receiving an OK from the NCAA Clearinghouse, Burfict led the team in tackles (five) despite playing only in the second half. He absolutely unloaded on ISU quarterback Russel Hill in the third quarter, recording a nine-yard loss. Burfict also recorded a fumble recovery.


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