September 15, 2008

ASU Hopes to Regroup

Arizona State coach Dennis Erickson admits there were still a lot of long faces when his team reported Sunday to review the film from Saturday's 23-20 overtime loss to UNLV.

And why not?

This was a game that was supposed to be a footnote for the Sun Devils before hosting No. 3 Georgia (3-0) in Saturday's nationally televised game (5:13, ABC). Unfortunately for ASU (2-1), the Rebels had other ideas.

Now, Erickson's squad must a find a way to regroup against a Bulldog team the former Miami coach says he holds an extremely high regard for.

"We met and looked at the tape of the game and they were pretty quiet yesterday, pretty subdued. I guess that's what happens when you get beat like that, but we also talked about the fact that we have nine football games left," Erickson said during a Monday press conference at ASU. "We didn't get specific on Georgia by any means, but we talked more in general about the rest of our season. Although we didn't play well - that's an understatement - there are a lot of things left to play for. Basically that was the conversation we had.

"Then we looked at the tape and tried to correct a lot of the mistakes we made in that game, and there were a number of them. I expect them to bounce back tomorrow, when they get back on the practice field and we present the scouting report for Georgia. We better be ready to go, because they are an awfully talented group."

Erickson has been particularly impressed with Bulldog quarterback Matthew Stafford and running back Knowshon Moreno.

The coach cited Moreno's strength and his ability to escape would-be tacklers, while Stafford's arm is "as strong as I've seen in a long time."

Georgia's team speed and overall athletic ability is also a huge concern for Erickson.

"Yeah, and the thing that is overlooked is their wideouts. They have some guys who can flat fly out there. Stafford obviously can throw a football, so you add all those things together, you're going to have to mix it up and take your chances. You have to try to stop the run," Erickson said. "You can't let them run it down your throat, which they have been able to do against a lot of people. So, you have to be able to stop the run, and then you have to take your chances after that. Our goal is to try and go in there and try to stop the run, or slow it down I should say, and then go from there."

Picked to finish second in the Pac-10 behind top-ranked USC, the Sun Devils feature one of the nation's better quarterbacks in senior Rudy Carpenter.

Bulldog coach Mark Richt admits his defense will have its work cut out.

Carpenter is the active Pac-10 leader in passing attempts, completed passes, passing yards, touchdown passes and 300 yard games. Carpenter now has 71 career touchdown passes and has thrown for 8,973 yards in his ASU career. He currently ranks 12th all-time in Pac-10 history for passing yards, trailing Stanford's John Elway (1979-82) by 376 yards.

With his 733 passing yards in the first two weeks of the 2008 season, he established a new standard for passing yards through the first two games in ASU history. The previous record was held by Sam Keller in 2005, when he threw for 669 yards against Temple and LSU.

Defensively, the Bulldogs will have to watch out for defensive end Dexter Davis who has already established himself as one of the best pass rushers in the Pac-10. Through the first three games, Davis has 4.0 QB sacks, six tackles for loss and 10 total tackles. He has started all 29 games in his Sun Devil career and has already totaled 20.5 sacks, 30 tackles for loss and 83 tackles.

Overall, the Sun Devils return 38 letterwinners from last year's Pac-10 championship squad, including seven starters on both offense and defense. ASU also features an experienced receiving corps, led by Mike Jones and Chris McGaha. The two combined for 107 catches for 1,599 yards and 11 touchdowns last fall while running back Dimitri Nance came into the season as the 10th-leading rusher in school history, gaining 2,234 yards in his career.

Linebackers Travis Goethel and Mike Nixon anchor the linebackers after combining 129 tackles a season ago. Troy Nolan is the leader of the defensive backfield after picking off six passes last year, while kicker Thomas Weber is the 2007 Lou Groza Award winner.

But according to Erickson, all that experiences means little if his team can put last Saturday's loss behind it.

But he's hopeful.

"We have nine football games left and we have only played one conference game. We have eight conference games left, so there are a lot of things out there for everybody to play for in our league. That's how you have to approach it," Erickson said. "I don't know what happened to the other teams. I do know what happened to us. We didn't play well and they played well. I'm not taking any credit away from Las Vegas, because they came in here and had an opportunity and took advantage of it.

"So, there's not anything you can say, except what the score was. For us, it's rebounding now and that is what we have to do. Rebound and get ready for the rest of the season."



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