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Football uses strong second half to cruise past Utah

Utah QB (9)
Utah QB (9)

SALT LAKE CITY – For the first two hours Saturday afternoon, dark clouds hovered over Rice-Eccles Stadium with an ominous prescience.

But midway through the third quarter, the skies cleared.

And with the sunshine came a Sun Devil resurgence.

The ASU football team rallied from a 14-10 deficit to score three second half touchdowns on three Utah turnovers and win going away, 35-14.

“We knew we were going to get everything from them,” ASU coach Dennis Erickson said. “They gave it to us early but we fought back. We answered and it started with getting those turnovers.”

After falling behind when the Utes (2-3, 0-3) took their first possession of the third period in for a touchdown, the No. 22 Sun Devils (5-1, 3-0 Pac-12) scored 25 unanswered points in a 15 minute span to put the game out of reach.

“It all happened really fast,” Osweiler said. “I had some blood on my uniform and they were cleaning it off of me and then a minute later I had to be like ‘Hey you got to get off me, I’m going back out there.’”

The ASU defense provided the sparks for the offense to light the fireworks.

The Sun Devils forced two fumbles and one interception on consecutive Utah possessions to give the offense short fields to work with.

“We knew the second half would be ours,” ASU senior safety Clint Floyd said. “We needed the turnovers so our offense could keep getting out there. We were confident and it helped us get back on track.”

Even though almost a full quarter remained on the clock after the dust settled, the improbable ASU run sucked the remaining life out of the Utes.

“To keep momentum going to the point where they back down and quit, that’s where we live at,” ASU senior wide receiver Gerell Robinson said. “You don’t get tired because your enthusiasm and emotions are running high.”

In total, the Sun Devil defense forced five turnovers while the offense didn’t give up any.

Osweiler finished the day 25-for-41 for 325 yards and three touchdowns.

Robinson and fellow ASU senior wide receiver Mike Willie each had big days.

Willie caught seven passes for 98 yards and two touchdowns while Robinson caught seven passes for 101 yards.

Both received man coverage much of the game because Utah crowded the box to try to stop the ASU run game.

“I didn’t expect that,” Robinson said. “We’re a lot bigger than a lot of [defensive backs]. It was kind of crazy but it was a lot of fun.”

Saturday started poorly for the Sun Devils.

The Utes struck first five minutes into the game on a 30 yard run from Utah junior running back John White.

“I made a bad call on that one,” ASU defensive coordinator Craig Bray said. “We had them on third down and their tendencies were to throw so I called an overload on the ride side and they ran to our gap.”

The Sun Devils responded six minutes later with a touchdown pass from Osweiler to ASU junior wide receiver Jamal Miles for a five yard score.

ASU added an Alex Garoutte 27 yard field in the second quarter.

Holding a 10-7 lead at the half, the Sun Devils kicked off to the Utes to start the third period.

After the ASU defense forced a fourth down, Utah faked a punt in its own territory to extend its drive.

The next play junior transfer quarterback Jon Hays, starting in place of the injured Jordan Wynn, hit redshirt freshman wide receiver Kenneth Scott on a flea-flicker for a 46 yard gain down to the Sun Devil five yard line.

The Utes pushed it in a few plays later to take a 14-10 lead.

But that’s when the momentum took a 180 degree turn.

The Sun Devils drove their ensuing possession 79 yards and kicked a field goal to cut the Utah lead to one.

Two plays from scrimmage later, ASU senior linebacker Shelly Lyons forced a White fumble and the Sun Devils took over with great field position.

It took just two minutes for ASU to capitalize on the turnover.

Osweiler hit Willie down the middle of the field for a 14 yard touchdown.

On the very next Utah snap, Floyd intercepted Hays at the Ute 32 yard line.

Four Sun Devil plays later, ASU junior running back Cameron Marshall ran the ball in from four yards out for another score.

The last turnover came on a Utah junior wide receiver Reggie Dunn fumble forced by Floyd and recovered by Lyons.

Osweiler hit Willie again in the endzone to cap off ASU’s dominate performance.

“We have tremendous wide receivers on the outside with big frames,” Osweiler said. “We emphasized this week to toss it up to them and our receivers made big plays.”

Injury notes

Despite not practicing much of the week with an ankle injury, ASU redshirt senior center Garth Gerhart started and played Saturday.

Freshman wide receiver Rashad Ross suffered a concussion on the opening kickoff and didn’t play the rest of the day.

Sophomore cornerback OsahonIrabor left the game with back spasms in the first half.

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