Defense leads Arizona State to 34-9 win over UCLA
TEMPE, Ariz. (AP)—Arizona State tied a major college record with four defensive touchdowns in a 34-9 victory over UCLA on Friday night, keeping alive the Sun Devils’ bowl hopes while eliminating the Bruins from postseason contention.
Troy Nolan, Travis Goethel and Mike Nixon each returned interceptions for scores—Nolan’s went for 100 yards, matching a school record—and Paul Unga returned a fumble for a touchdown. All three interceptions were thrown by UCLA’s Kevin Craft.
According to the NCAA, the four defensive scores by Arizona State tied the major college record set by Houston, which had four interception returns for touchdowns against Texas on Nov. 7, 1987.
The Sun Devils (5-6, 4-4 Pac-10) can earn a minor bowl berth with a victory next week over archrival Arizona in Tucson. ASU, which opened the season ranked 15th, has won three straight after losing six in a row to match a school record.
The defense bailed out the Sun Devils on a night their offense mustered 122 total yards.
After UCLA (4-7, 3-5) took a 3-0 lead on a 53-yard field goal by Kai Forbath midway through the first quarter, Unga helped Arizona State rally on a fluke play.
With UCLA at its own 21 early in the second quarter, ASU defensive end Dexter Davis sacked Craft, forcing a fumble that was recovered by UCLA tailback Derrick Coleman.
Coleman stood with the ball in his right hand, apparently thinking the play was dead. But Nixon alertly stripped the ball and Unga picked it up and rambled 17 yards for a touchdown that gave Arizona State a 7-3 lead.
Six minutes later, Goethel grabbed a tipped pass and returned it 38 yards for a touchdown to put the Sun Devils ahead 14-3.
With Arizona State leading 17-9 early and UCLA threatening early in the fourth quarter, Nolan intercepted a pass from Craft in the end zone and sprinted down the right sideline for a 100-yard touchdown return.
A few minutes later, Nixon picked off Craft and went 45 yards for a touchdown to make it 31-9.
Craft completed 24 of 39 passes for 204 yards.
The Sun Devils’ offense sputtered, as it has for much of the season. They had nine punts and 10 first downs and gave up five sacks.
Forbath kicked three field goals, also connecting from 26 and 38 yards.
It was the final home game for Arizona State quarterback Rudy Carpenter, who started his 42nd straight game, the nation’s longest active streak.
Carpenter completed 13 of 26 passes for 101 yards and became the school’s career leader in completions with 786. But he was booed by the sparse Sun Devil Stadium crowd after throwing an interception late in the third quarter.