October 28, 2008

First look: Oregon State

Arizona State coach Dennis Erickson is very familiar with Corvallis, Ore.

He coached the Oregon State football team for four years.

Erickson has been back twice since departing for the NFL following the 2002 season.

The first time he returned to Corvallis after leaving the Beavers, he sat in a luxury box as Oregon State dedicated its new stadium.

The second time was in September 2006 when he took his University of Idaho team there and lost 38-0.

But now, as the coach of a Pac-10 rival, Erickson doesn't expect to be treated nearly as well as he was the last two times.

"I don't think they'll quite give me [a luxury box] this time around," he said.

For Erickson, Saturday's trip to Oregon State is just like any other game, but not entirely.

He is six years removed from his days there, but any time he returns somewhere he used to coach it means a little bit more to him.

"To say its just another game really isn't the truth, but it is at this point," he said. "I haven't coached there in six years. It's just a game where hopefully we continue to improve and give ourselves a chance to win."

Erickson has a lot of respect and admiration for the Beavers' current coach Mike Riley.

Riley is in his second stint at Oregon State and under his direction, the Beavers have been very consistent and they stick to their hard-nosed philosophy, something Erickson would like to achieve at ASU.

"Mike Riley has done the best job of coaching I've seen in the country over the last six or seven years," Erickson said. "They're consistent year after year. They're tough. They're physical. They are what they are. They are what they believe in and they stay with it and that's why they win a lot of football games.

"It's a hard place to play at when you go there, that's obvious. I know that on both sides of the sideline."

Needless to say, the Sun Devils know if they want to get their first win since Sept. 6, they need to play their best football on Saturday.

"It's going to be tough playing in Corvallis," quarterback Rudy Carpenter said.

Oregon State (4-3, 3-1 Pac-10) is averaging more than 430 yards nearly 35 points per game.

The Beavers are the only team that has beaten No. 5 USC this season, and that win due in large part to freshman running back Jacquizz Rodgers who racked up 186 rushing yards and two touchdowns against the Trojans.

"Jacquizz is just an incredible young runner," Erickson said. "[He has] very powerful, great feet. He runs the football inside extremely well but also has great speed.

"I knew he was going to be a great runner before he emerged, obviously, in the USC game."

More Bass

Perhaps the only positive note from ASU's 54-20 loss to Oregon was the emergence of true freshman running back Ryan Bass.

Bass carried the ball 10 times for 56 yards, all in the second half, and Erickson said Sun Devil faithful should expect to see more touches for Bass throughout the rest of the season.

"Ryan came in and did some really good things," Erickson said. "He finally got a chance to come in and play for a period of time, which he really hasn't had that opportunity. Sometimes it's hard to tell in practice, but you could see in that game he has strength and he can make people miss.

"He's young and has a lot of things to learn, but he'll see more action this week… You'll see a heck of a lot more of him in the next five weeks."

Booting the ball

Erickson sent out Trevor Hankins to punt the ball for ASU against Oregon in hopes of taking some stress away from Thomas Weber, who has been struggling with his field goals lately.

Hankins had a 40-yard punt in his first attempt, but shanked his second attempt before Erickson put Weber back in.

Hankins also punted the ball one time late in the third quarter for ASU.

Erickson said he may have Hankins punt again this week to keep Weber focused on field goals.

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