Stoking the Fire (A Look Into Arizona State)
I usually do previews with the opposing fans for Cal’s upcoming game on their respective message boards (if you want to see a sample or two, click here for the Vols, Rams, Bulldogs, Wildcats, Ducks, and Beavers). You might have noticed I passed on UCLA last week, partly because I was ill, partly because I generally cannot stand the humorless, elitist condescension of those Bruins fans, (although mostly because I was shellshocked).
I have much nicer things to say about the undefeated Sun Devils (a generally affable group just happy to be out of the reach of Dirk Koetter), from their people to their parties to their fine ladystock (NSFW), so here ya go, straight from Devil’s Digest.
How important is Arizona State’s 7-0 start? What have you learned about Dennis Erickson that stands in contrast to the underachieving Dirk Koetter’s squads?
ASU’s 7-0 start is very important – it has instilled confidence in the team and that is what DE has done great. He makes the team believe and builds confidence, something lacking with Dirk. Overall you see him give more praise to players in general than you saw with Dirk.
The fast start is critical in that it made the transition from DK to DE quick and seamless. The team is/has bought into DE’s coaching style and is playing fast and loose. They are actually having fun playing football! Underachieving personifies DK’s teams. We’d get lead on the SC’s and LSU’s and the coaches would find a way to lose. I have a feeling DE and his staff will not do that. Perhaps the most important thing I have learned about DE is that his halftime adjustments are incredible. That was another aspect missing from DK’s staff.
Your team has fallen behind early a lot, yet come back with overpowering force in the 2nd half. What can you attribute this to? Do you just wear out inferior opposition or are you just a strong 2nd half team?
Primarily this has been due to half-time adjustments. DE’s coaching staff has been around the game for a long time and has seen almost everything allowing them to make the adjustments needed to shut down the other teams offense and loosen up their defense. Torain also was a big influence as a power back running down the other teams D along with time of possession.
We seem to be a lot better conditioned this season. DE has cut practice time down but made them more intense. The players are fresh and we have simply worn people down. We have actually looked faster in the 4th quarter than in the 1st. This does not bode well for Cal given that we are coming off of a bye week. As for the inferior competition, look at what CU, OSU and Stanford did to Oklahoma, Cal and SC in the 2nd half of their games, respectively.
Our 2nd halves have been total domination.
Rudy Carpenter has shown a lot of promise. But he has been sacked. A lot. Although you’re facing a team that sacks very little, are you worried about the holes your offensive line hasn’t been able to close?
The problem hasn’t necessarily been all on the shoulders of the O-line. Rudy likes to make plays and sometimes will hold onto the ball to long, but with Washington, ASU has shown improvement in this area. The O-line is stepping up and they are doing more quick slants to get rid of the ball quicker. DE has made this issue a large focus in practices the last couple of games.
Rudy holds onto the ball for way too long and has contributed to a lot of our sacks. In fairness he has also scrambled out of several sacks so maybe it evens out. The O-line is coming together; the best thing I can say about them is that when we have to run the ball or when the opponent knows we are going to run it, they produce. One of our biggest areas of improvement is running the ball and clock-killing drives late in games.
How big is the loss of Ryan Torain? Will Keegan Herring and Dmitri Nance be able to pick up the slack for the second straight game?
Yes. One of ASU’s greatest strengths is depth at running back. One thing Koetter earlier in his years was how weak ASU was with the run and began focusing on the late in his tenure. DE has even tipped his hat to Koetter for bringing in three great backs in Torain, Herring and Nance. Granted they aren’t the power back Torain is, these two are more about speed and agility. Woods and DeWitty are Torrain like backs that will probably be seen in the second half of the season. (More Woods than DeWitty – who is redshirting this year)
I wish I knew. RT was a workhorse. However, Keegan was the starter before RT and his is way faster. He can take it to the house on any play. I will anxiously await how we do on short yardage without RT.
Torain, Nance, and Herring are all very different runners. Torain was a true power back with speed. Nance, said by Erickson last spring, might be our best all around back, reminds of a young Emmitt Smith. Herring is more of a Reggie Bush type. You wouldn’t want him to have 30 carries a game, but he’s absolutely lightning in a bottle.
The UDub game provided ample proof that either Nance or Herring are capable of taking it to the house on any given play.
A big defensive effort will be needed to control Cal’s offense. What are the strongest and weakest parts of your D?
Our D is pretty solid this year. I let someone else give you the stats, however pass defense efficiency and PPG have been notable. As for weakness, a lot of teams like to pick on CB Omar Boldin because he’s a freshman, but the guy is good and makes a few mistakes you would expect from a freshman. He’s underestimated and has returned a pick 6 once this season.
Pass rush from our D line has been a problem although late in the UW game the front four started to dominate. We still blow too many coverages for me as well. By far the strongest part of the D is our LB’s. They are fast and hit. They seldem miss tackles and we have a lot of them so they are always fresh. Cal’s offense will be a MAJOR task for our D. I hope we do not get into a shootout.
What concerns you the most about Saturday’s game? What are you most confident in?
Concerns would be how Cal will play after the last two losses. They are a good team and the best we’ve played yet, so it’s unknown how ASU will perform against a ranked opponent. I’m most confident in our D, which is much stronger than Oregon’s, as exposed in their game against Washington. We lead the Pac-10 in several categories.
Most concerned with the level of expectations placed on the team and its new BCS rankings. I hope the team is not content and that they are not looking too far ahead. On an obvious note my other biggest concern is Cal! They are a good team that has beaten us pretty handily the last 4 times we have played. I am most confident in our coaches, our D and to a lesser extent, Cal not being a great defense.
Any future playmakers to watch out for? What will be the keys to victory?
As with any game the keys are who can run the ball, who can stop the run and who makes the least amount of mistakes. We have a kid named Taylor who is the nephew of former 49ers John Taylor, he will be a stud.
The key to victory will be in our defense. Last year Cal plowed us over in the 1st quarter. The defense will need to come out strong in the first half and keep up within a touchdown or two before half time if we are behind. Those points can be made up, but any bigger deficit than that could be a nail in the coffin for ASU. If ASU leads at the half, I’d kiss a Cal victory good bye.
Finally (and this has nothing to do with the game), Pat Tillman went to your school, and his accolades are well-renowned. Is there any way for Cal fans can contribute to make sure his sacrifice doesn’t go unnoticed?
Thank you, we take pride in Pat. I look forward to the day I can tell my son about him and his personal sacrifice. The best way to make sure he does not go unnoticed is to tell people about his story, especially younger kids. You can also make a donation to the Pat Tillman Foundation.
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