These past few games the Arizona State Sun Devils needed an answer for their defensive woes. Last night, redshirt junior linebacker Marcus Ball was that answer.
“Man. Marcus balled out,” head Coach Todd Graham said. “I was real proud of him.”
In previous games, the Sun Devils had a bad habit of giving up big plays because of missing tackles. Granted, that did happen a few times against the UCLA Bruins, however, certainly not as much due to Ball’s impact.
“I’ve really been on him about the tackling,” Graham said.
Ball ended his game with a total of ten tackles, all solo, after his previous high for this season was five solo tackles against UTSA.
What Ball did a lot this game was stop the big plays from happening. Of his ten tackles, only four of them were past a gain of ten yards, two past 15 yards. If there was a potential of a big gain for UCLA, Ball was there to shut it down.
“Marcus, I was real real proud of him,” Graham reiterated, “He came up.”
Despite UCLA throwing for 444 yards, there was an ample amount of pressure put on both QB’s and Ball was a part of that as well. He helped forced three interceptions which included him grabbing his first one of the season.
Ball grabbed a ball initially tipped by redshirt-senior linebacker Laiu Moeakiola, to which he ended up running 22 yards with and gave Rosen his only pick of the game.
“I just saw the ball and picked it off. God had his favor on me tonight,” Ball said. “I was just doing my assignment, doing my job and came up with a big play.”
It was that interception that would eventually win Arizona State the game. From that pick, the Sun Devils went on a drive that ended with senior kicker Zane Gonzalez’s 89th career field goal. The field goal that saw him break the record for most made field goals in NCAA history. It was also the Sun Devils last score of the game, a game which they won by three very valuable points.
“We knew to win this game we were going to have to bunk it down and play some tremendous defense,” Ball said. “That's what we did the second half. Came out plus three on turnovers and got the win”
Overall the defense as a whole showed up big time against UCLA. After very questionable performances in past games this season, the secondary came to play and silence their doubters in this game. They had a final stat line of 56 tackles, five sacks, three picks, two forced fumbles, and one fumble recovery.
Yes, there were a couple of big plays that were given up, but that's naturally going to happen to any defense (aside from Michigan State when they faced Rutgers yesterday). However, this game would’ve been a lot worse on the defensive end had Marcus Ball not been on the field.