November 11, 2008

Sun Devils look to start winning streak

Two days after Arizona State secured its first win two more than months, the players and coaches are still feeling good.

The Sun Devils know they still have a long way to go if they want to earn a bowl berth, but coach Dennis Erickson and quarterback Rudy Carpenter were both noticeably upbeat at their Monday press conference.

"After as many weeks as we went through, it's a good feeling," Erickson said. "We still have to deal with what has happened in the past, but at least now you can look forward to hopefully a few more [wins] before it's all over."

And a big reason why ASU got back in the win column is because of the production of the running game at Washington.

The Sun Devils rushed for a season-high 182 yards, 144 of those came courtesy of Keegan Herring.

Carpenter called a strong rushing attack "the most, probably, important part to any offense" because it keeps the defense honest and opens up the passing game.

"Those defensive linemen and those linebackers can't just pin their ears back and say, 'we're going to go after the passer,'" Carpenter said about what a good ground game does for him. "It allows me stand back there for some time and make some throws. And it also makes safeties come down in the box and play the run so you get man-to-man coverage. And you know, obviously, we think our receivers will win when we get those situations, which they did."

The explosion on the ground could be a product of the shuffled offensive line ASU used on Saturday.

Shawn Lauvao moved from his usual post at left guard to right tackle and Zach Schlink made his first career start at left tackle. Also, Garth Gerhart took over at the center position in the second half.

"The move we made when we moved Shawn outside to tackle and Zach inside to guard really helped us," Erickson said. "That group against Washington, we blocked the run pretty darn good and protected pretty darn good. We had a couple sacks in the first series and then after that I thought we protected real well."

However, just when the Sun Devils finally thought they had the right mix of players up front, they lost one of their starting five.

Schlink injured his knee and ankle against the Huskies and was on crutches Sunday.

"My experience is [Schlink] will probably not play [this Saturday]," Erickson said. "If that were the case then we have to sit down and discuss what we want to do. When the injury occurred, obviously we moved Shawn back inside to guard and put [Tom] Njunge in there. Is that the best for us? I'm not sure."

Trying times

Erickson had never really experienced anything like ASU's six game skid before in his coaching career.

In his 19 previous seasons as a college head coach, Erickson has only lost six or more games in a season four times.

He was admittedly frustrated during the losing streak, but now he is trying to move on and win the rest of ASU's football games.

"Nobody likes to lose, and when you're not used to it, and things don't seem to go right its frustrating for everybody involved," he said. "It's hard. You just keep sliding and sliding. Finally at Oregon State we played like I thought we were capable of playing.

"That's all behind us. We have to look when the season is over as coaches at why did this happen. Where are we? What do we have to do so that doesn't happen again because that wasn't very much fun."

Familiar face

Erickson knows Cougars' first-year coach Paul Wulff very well.

Wulff played under Erickson in 1987 and 1988 at Washington State.

Erickson described Wulff, a center, as a "competitor" and "leader" and has full confidence that Wulff can bring WSU back into prominence.

"He'll get that thing going, he really will," Erickson said. "Sure he can win there. It's no different than here.

"You have to get the guys that fit in to you want and get them there for a long period of time and you win."

Player of the week

Thomas Weber was named the Pac-10 special teams player of the week.

Weber made all three of his field goal attempts Saturday and punted the ball five times for 165 yards.

This is the fourth time in Weber's career he has received this honor. The previous three times were all last season.


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