September 16, 2008

Angry Sun Devils look to pick up intensity

The ASU football team has put the loss to UNLV behind it -- but it wasn't easy.

Quarterback Rudy Carpenter couldn't sleep Saturday night because he was thinking about the game.

Coach Dennis Erickson said Monday afternoon that he had only slept about five hours since Thomas Weber's overtime field goal attempt was blocked.

The whole team was angry. The players and coaches know they should have beaten UNLV.

And when the team met Sunday to watch film, everyone was very quiet and subdued.

"I think they were very angry with themselves," Erickson said of his players. "I was very angry with myself for how I performed.

"The bottom line falls on me and I think they felt the same way about themselves as I felt about myself which was pretty angry."

But in Sunday's meeting Erickson told his players one very important thing: they are the exact same group of guys that they were before the loss.

Erickson stressed that there is still a lot of football to be played and that the Sun Devils can still accomplish their season goals.

"We have nine football games left," Erickson said. "Although we didn't play well -- that's an understatement -- there's a lot of things left to play for.

"We've only played one conference game. We've got eight conference games left. There's a lot of things left for everybody to play for in our league, it looks like to me. So that's how you have to approach it."

Saturday's loss almost assuredly knocks out any national championship consideration, but six other Pac-10 teams lost Saturday and the Rose Bowl still appears to be a realistic possibility.

No. 1 USC easily won its game over then-No. 5 Ohio State and the Trojans could end up playing for the national title, leaving the door open for another Pac-10 team to play in Pasadena on Jan. 1.

Carpenter said he knows that, and as a team leader he is constantly reminding his teammates.

"Our goal every year is to win the Pac-10, and that can still happen," Carpenter said. "I think it's important that our guys understand that."

And Carpenter said he isn't concerned with whether the team will be able to bounce back this week.

He said he knows the team's character and that it will take the "negative energy" and use it as motivation.

Carpenter said he wants to see every one of his teammates get over the loss and start preparing for Georgia with more fire than ever.

"I want to see everything pick up," Carpenter said. "I want to see the intensity level in practice pick up. I want to see less mistakes in practice. I want to see a different type of fire and passion and intensity in these guys' eyes in that we let one get away, and we're going to do everything in our power to make up for that. And it's important that they understand it starts today watching film and it starts in practice tomorrow."

With the UNLV debacle behind them, the Sun Devils have already started looking ahead to Georgia and they know they will be in for another tough game.

The Bulldogs are ranked third in the nation for a reason.

They're big. They're fast. And they know how to play football.

"It's going to be the best team that we've seen so far this year," Carpenter said.

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