Notre Dame capitalizes on Arizona State's six turnovers
By BRIAN KESSLER
Before the game with Arizona State, Notre Dame offensive coordinator Kevin Rogers was kidding around with two of the Irish safeties.
"I was joking with A'Jani [Sanders] and Deke [Cooper] before the game and they said, `Are you going to put up 40 [points] today,'" Rogers said. "I said, `You turn it over five times and I'll put up 40.'"
Rogers didn't know it at the time, but that's exactly what would happen Saturday.
The Sun Devils turned the ball over six times and watched a scoreless first quarter turn into a 48-17 Irish victory.
"This is a great example of what happens when you don't turn the football over and when you make big plays," said head coach Bob Davie, whose team improved to 3-3 on the season. "I give our football team credit. This is the second week in a row without a turnover. I think that open date really helped us."
Arizona State got off to a quick start early, but two turnovers and a missed field goal by Stephen Baker in the opening quarter took away its momentum. The Irish responded by scoring 41 points in a span of 17 minutes to put the game out of reach early in the third.
"I thought we moved the ball well," Arizona State head coach Bruce Synder said. "We played good football, so when the avalanche started, that's a sense of frustration you deal with."
The avalanche started early in the second when quarterback Jarious Jackson (10-of-17 for 223 yards) found Bobby Brown on a 23-yard fade. On the next play, Brown beat Arizona State's Kevin Williams once again, resulting a 42-yard score and a 7-0 lead.
"Jarious and I were just trying to stress that if they are going to bring everybody, we have to make them pay," said Brown, who had three catches for 84 yards. "And making them pay is not a 10 yarder. We're going to go deep. Jarious did a good job of placing the ball all day."
ASU quarterback Ryan Kealy, on the other hand, had some difficulty. On the Sun Devils first play following the Irish touchdown, Kealy was intercepted by Sanders, who returned it for a 28-yard touchdown.
"I made my drop in the cover three zone to the flat," said Sanders, who also returned an interception for a touchdown against ASU last year. "I went out there with the receiver and he [Flowers] turned up field and [Kealy] just threw it out there. I was like thanks. I picked it and took it home."
Trailing 14-0, Kealy and the Sun Devils tried to mount a comeback, but another turnover halted their efforts. With ASU driving, tight end Todd Heap was stripped by Grant Irons and Cooper came up with his second fumble recovery of the game.
"We were just trying to make things happen all day," Irons said. "I think the defense is really playing well together and we just try to make turnovers for the offense."
A 25-yard run by Tony Fisher and a 44-yard rush by Jackson put the Irish in scoring position once again. Two plays later, Jackson found tight end Dan O'Leary for a 6-yard touchdown pass.
"It was pretty exciting," O'Leary said. "I told Jarious I could smell it before he even called it. I knew it was coming. They were playing man defense and the guy who was covering me slipped and luckily Jarious saw and threw it on a bee-line to me. It was a great play to call from the 6-yard line on second down. I don't think the defense was expecting it."
Cooper intercepted Kealy on the next ASU possession and on the next play Jackson found Joey Getherall for a touchdown on a 25-yard post pattern to give the Irish a 27-0 halftime lead.
At the half, the Irish offense only had one more yard than the Sun Devils, but turnovers proved to be the difference. Arizona State turned it over five times, including three interceptions.
"[Turnovers are] the bottom line," Rogers said. "One team turns it over six times. I'm not sure how good we were on offense, but we got the ball on the short side of the field a couple times. Every time we turned it over, except for Kansas, we lost, so it's huge. It's probably the biggest factor in a football game."
Jackson, on the other hand, countered Kealy's three first-half interceptions had three touchdown passes.
"Jarious steps up and makes big plays," Davie said. "He's playing the best football of his career and that's a pretty big statement. He's back healthy and he's confident in his teammates, especially those guys up front."
Jackson opened the third-quarter scoring with a 48-yard touchdown run, the longest of his career. Freshman tailback Julius Jones then pushed the lead to 41-0 with a 13-yard touchdown run, the first of his career.
ASU finally got on the board late in the third with a 1-yard touchdown run by Gerald Green, but Jackson still wasn't finished.
With 11:31 remaining in the game, Jackson evaded a tackler in the backfield and went up top to Jay Johnson for a 31-yard touchdown. Jackson's fourth touchdown pass of the day tied a school record. He also had 93 rush yards on nine carries.
ASU added 10 points in the closing minutes of the game.
All Sports Stories for Monday, October 11, 1999