October 9, 2008

Defense making gains

Arizona State spotted Cal 17 points last Saturday but then saw its defense perform as well as it has all season for the majority of the 24-14 loss. The Sun Devils gave up just seven more points the rest of the way, and that was after an interception by quarterback Rudy Carpenter gave Cal the ball at the ASU 30 yard line.

"I'd say it was one of our better performances, the last two quarters or so," linebacker Travis Goethel said following practice Wednesday. "We finally started clicking together and all of us were playing as one unit.

"It's been a big concentration at practice, fixing our mistakes, taking care of bad habits that we picked up. That's been a big emphasis these last couple weeks and I think that showed a little against Cal when we played pretty good for a long period of time."

Goethel said that team has remained positive through the team's three game losing streak, with a focus on working hard and making daily gains.

"We're not getting down on ourselves because that's not going to get us anywhere," Goethel said. "We just need to keep looking ahead and practicing harder and playing harder if we're going to win games. We definitely do have the personnel, it's just sometimes, a guy doesn't play the right defense. He reads the wrong key, goes one way and it opens a seam for a run or pass.

"I don't want to pinpoint it on one thing. All of us have had problems here and there, not reading the right keys, not playing the right defense and stuff. It's been all of us not playing together."

Still, even with the Sun Devils sitting at 2-3 and a game at USC on the horizon, there are some positive signs to point toward. ASU has allowed a reasonable 20.8 points per game (4th in the Pac-10) and 324.8 yards per game (5th in the league).

"We haven't had as many turnovers (generated) so that hurts and the offense has had some problems too," Goethel said. "The whole team, it's just not been clicking as we should be. I don't know if that's from guys that left, just with a leadership thing but we did take a step back and we're trying to step it up and overcome this."

Rudy watch

Carpenter elected to forgo the walking boot he's worn essentially at all times since the Cal game ended on Saturday in favor of a heavily taped football cleat. However, his activity level in practice didn't progress in any meaningful way.

For the most part, Carpenter was an observer. He did work on taking a few drops under the watchful eye of the team's head trainer, but it was slowly and with a pronounced limp.

"He's very doubtful," coach Dennis Erickson said. "We'll see what happens tomorrow. Again, it's day-by-day. We still have three days. Our plan is that [backup Danny Sullivan's] going to play. That's where it's at right now."

Erickson added that the game plan won't change much regardless of which quarterback plays.

"We do the same things with both of them," Erickson said. "We don't add anything or take anything away. Obviously because it's his first start you're very careful that you have the whole (package) thing in. But it doesn't change what we do.

"I believe [Sullivan's] done very well (in practice). The proof of the pudding is Saturday. [USC's] an interesting group to start against."

Bass in action?

Erickson said the Sun Devils may use running back Ryan Bass against the Trojans, after not playing the true freshman in recent games.

"We're going to try to get him some (game) reps," Erickson said. "That's our plan going in this week. He's done some good things. We've got to see how he plays. We really haven't given him a chance to play. We've got to get him out there and see what he can do."

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