September 8, 2008

Sun Devils want to keep focus on UNLV

When the ASU football team breaks from the huddle, the players don't yell, "Devils."

In fact, what you hear has nothing to do with ASU or its mascot.

Coach Dennis Erickson always has his team completely focused on its upcoming opponent, even when the huddle breaks, and it is reflected in the team's departing chant.

"Since [Erickson] got here," quarterback Rudy Carpenter said, "whenever we break huddles or we get together after practice or after games we don't break out on 'Devils' or whatever, it's just always the next number, which this week will be 'three.'

"So that's how we keep guys focused on the game that we're playing this week and not look ahead."

And if ASU ever needs to avoid looking ahead, it is this week.

After playing UNLV (1-1) this Saturday, it will face No. 2 Georgia the following week.

UNLV hasn't more than two games since 2003, so it's obvious as to why ASU could possibly overlook the Rebels.

Just last weekend, then-No. 3 Ohio State had to battle into the fourth quarter to beat the University of Ohio. The Buckeyes might have been looking ahead to their game against No. 1 USC this weekend.

But Carpenter said he is sure ASU won't make the same mistake, that Erickson has instilled the value of not looking ahead in his players.

Carpenter said when the team breaks the huddle with "three" this week, the third game will truly be the only thing on the Sun Devils' mind.

"That's one of the things Coach Erickson has done since he got here which is just really take one game at a time and one day at a time," Carpenter said. "I know it's cliché and everyone says it, but Coach Erickson really means it."

UNLV is a greatly improved team. Last week it was tied with No. 22 Utah at halftime, and was still close early in the fourth quarter.

Erickson said if ASU overlooks UNLV, the Rebels could have a chance for the upset.
"We're a team that has to focus every week against every opponent and if we don't, we're not going to win the game," he said. "Our players know that so they'll be prepared to play."

Tight ends emerging

Since Zach Miller departed for the NFL following the 2005 season, ASU hasn't had a dominating presence at tight end.

While nobody on the 2008 roster is as talented as Miller, ASU is trying to get the tight ends more involved and it showed Saturday against Stanford.

Jovon Williams made a spectacular, 22-yard catch that brought ASU to the 1-yard line and led to a touchdown in the third quarter.

Then in the fourth quarter, redshirt freshman Dan Knapp made a 2-yard touchdown reception.

"It's an area that's getting better all the time," Erickson said. "It's probably gone from what we thought would be not necessarily a weakness but we would be very young there, to where we're holding our own at that position."

And Carpenter loves the emergence of talent at tight end.

The ASU receiving corps is so highly touted, defenses spend much of their effort trying to shut those guys down, so having more options to throw to is a plus according to Carpenter.

"It helps big time," Carpenter said. "When you have a tight end who can make plays and catch the ball it's huge because a lot of times you have linebackers covering tight ends. I would take Jovon over any linebacker athletic-wise.

"We have a good group of wide receivers and teams will tend to leave that tight end because of the other guys we've got, so if those guys can keep on making plays for us that would be huge."

Notes

  • Linebacker Gerald Munns, who will likely miss next week's game due to finger surgery, was named Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Week.

    Against Stanford, Munns was ASU's top defender recording seven tackles, one interception and a tipped ball that resulted in an interception.

    Munns' interception was the first of his career.

  • Erickson said running back Keegan Herring is day-to-day after aggravating his injured hamstring against Stanford. Erickson said he probably will not know Herring's availability for UNLV until Saturday.

  • Tight end Andrew Pettes injured his groin in the first quarter against Stanford; he too is day-to-day.

  • Safety Angelo Fobbs-Valentino will miss three to four weeks with the medial collateral ligament that he injured against Northern Arizona.

    The injury does not require surgery, and Erickson said he expects to have Fobbs-Valentino back for the Oct. 4 match up with Cal.

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