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ASU Football: Defense and cold-blooded Zane Gonzalez lead ASU over Utah

(Photo: Tyler Strachan/WCSN)

When Zane Gonzalez lined up for the potentially game-winning, 36-yard field goal in overtime, Arizona State head coach Todd Graham was worried about one thing and it wasn’t his sophomore kicker.

“I just worried about the snap, that’s it,” Graham said. “I don’t worry about [Gonzalez]. He has a personality that gives you a lot of confidence…he’s special and I was pretty certain he was going to make it.”

The unflappable sophomore missed once earlier in the game on a 50-yard field goal that sailed just right of the uprights, although Graham said that may have been due to a high snap that threw off the timing of Gonzalez. Regardless, Gonzalez said he was able to put the previous miss behind him.

“Every kick is a new kick,” Gonzalez said. “If you miss it, you just forget about it and move on to the next one.”

He finished the day with four successful field goal tries and an extra point, accounting for 13 of ASU’s 19 points scored on the night. Had it not been for a tremendous performance by the Sun Devils defense that might not have been enough.

While Utah’s Devontae Booker managed to accumulate 146 yards rushing on Saturday night, he required 37 rushing attempts to do so, as the Utes relied heavily on the ground game to fill the void left by an anemic pass game. Utah quarterback Travis Wilson was pressured often by the Arizona State front that recorded three sacks and eight tackles for loss, as Wilson managed just 57 yards passing on 22 attempts.

“We pride ourselves as the bird gang,” ASU cornerback Lloyd Carrington said. “We try to be lockdown each and every game. It’s a mentality we take in each game. We go out and just try to dominate, and make sure they don’t get too much in the passing game.”

While the ASU defense held the Utah offense in check, the Sun Devils offense racked up 444 yards of offense but couldn’t find the points to show for it. Still, when the offense needed to score in overtime to seal a victory over Utah, the team had plenty of confidence that Gonzalez could get the job done.

“We’re just going to run our offense; take what the defense gives you; own the football,” ASU quarterback Taylor Kelly said of the overtime strategy. “We have points. We have the best kicker in the nation.”

Kelly isn’t the only one that thinks Gonzalez is the nation’s best. Safeties Jordan Simone and Damarious Randall each echoed the sentiment as well in postgame comments.

“We were extremely confident,” Simone said. “He’s the best kicker in the country. We believe that and he believes that, and he proved that tonight.”

With the victory, ASU is now the only team in the Pac-12 South with one loss and has a clear path to the Pac-12 Championship Game, although a regular season finale against the Arizona Wildcats will be a large decider of the team’s fate. Next up though is a break from Pac-12 play when No. 10 Notre Dame travels to Tempe for a 1:30 p.m. MT game that will be broadcast nationally on ABC.

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