Utah Utes football: ASU bedevils Utes with penchant for takeaways
Ravell Call, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — It seems the Utah football team contracted turnoveritis from BYU a few weeks ago.
And the exact opposite is the case for No. 22 Arizona State, which has been infecting opponents with a nasty bout of TO while climbing up the Pac-12 standings.
Continuing a trend for both teams, the Sun Devils forced Utah into five turnovers Saturday during the visitors' 35-14 blowout at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
"We've been getting turnovers the last three or four games," ASU coach Dennis Erickson said, "and that's what it's all about."
Tell the Utes about it.
Utah (2-3, 0-3) benefited from and helped create a seven-turnover nightmare for BYU in a 54-10 rout of its rival three weeks ago.
Since then, however, the Utes have coughed up the ball 10 different times — and that after only giving up three turnovers in their first three games.
The speedy Sun Devils, meanwhile, have been on a turnover tear of late. They swiped three TOs in their only loss at Illinois and have had sticky fingers ever since, stealing the ball away from USC four times in that 43-22 win and five times apiece in their last two victories over Oregon State (35-20) and Utah.
ASU math majors can confirm that that's 17 turnovers in four games. Not bad, considering the Sun Devils only came up with one in their first two games.
Making matters worse for the Utes, Arizona State didn't give up the ball at all.
"Usually," Erickson said, "you win football games like that."
Or lose 'em, as the Utes have sickeningly discovered in back-to-back mirror losses at home to ASU and Washington (31-14, five turnovers).
The Utes were in prime upset position even after fill-in quarterback Jon Hays was picked off at the goal line by ASU safety Clint Floyd right before halftime, preventing Utah from taking the lead into the locker room.
Utah opened the third quarter with a go-ahead score before somebody greased up the pigskin and ASU attacked, resulting in two fumbles, one interception and three Sun Devils touchdowns.
"Obviously, that changed the game, those three turnovers in the third quarter," Erickson said. "On offense, we were able to get points out of it."
Floyd was one of three Sun Devils to pick off a Hays pass, and he also had a forced fumble that led to ASU's final, back-breaking touchdown.
"We needed turnovers to come out so our offense can get started," the 5-foot-10 senior said. "The turnovers helped us a lot as you can see. It turned the game around for us. It helped our offense get back on track, and it helped us get back on track as well."
ASU recognized that Utah wasn't at full strength because of Jordan Wynn's injury, but it was the Sun Devils' tenacity that helped them take advantage of Hays and the Utes' decision to stack the box and mostly go man-to-man with the receivers. ASU also did a good job of stripping the ball from Utah's hands.
"We were all just going out there and making plays and doing what we have to do," said Floyd, whose defense has 10 interceptions so far this season.
"We just talked about it. When we talk about turnovers. we get them," he added. "So we go out there. We work hard. Everybody runs to the ball and a turnover will happen."
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