September 18, 2008
Erickson: 'We've practiced very well'
The sports maxim "you practice like you play" doesn't always prove accurate, but it was last week when Arizona State performed poorly in its preparations for UNLV and then promptly lost to the Rebels despite being a 22 point favorite. Cornerback Terell Carr, center Garth Gerhart, and right tackle Tom Njunge all saw action with the first-team on Wednesday. Carr, in particular, got most of his reps with the starting defense, ahead of Pierre Singfield.
With an emphasis on improved aggressive and intensity, the Sun Devils had their first live hitting drills of the month on Tuesday and Wednesday, and defensive coordinator Craig Bray's repeated on-field calls for "violent" defensive interaction were largely met.
ASU's staff has appeared pleased with the effort given by the team, and at the very least the Sun Devils will have that going for them on Saturday when they line up opposite Georgia.
"We've practiced very well. It's been a good week," coach Dennis Erickson said. "Now we've got to take it out on the field and execute and do the things we need to do. But as far as the intensity level and focus that we need to have for practice, we've had that the last two days and honestly we've had that most of the year. Obviously didn't have it last week for whatever reason. But we've been a pretty good practice team."
Resiliency is often a key characteristic of a quality football team and the Sun Devils are looking to bounce back from arguably the worst home loss since 1999 with a quality showing against one of the nation's top teams.
"It's about pride as a football team and as a program and pride as a player," Erickson said. "They're the ones. I'm the coach. I get it, they get it, we all get it when we don't play very well. All I ask them and all I've said is come out and play as hard as you can play. Play the best you can play and whatever happens, happens. And I believe we'll get that effort Saturday."
Erickson's players agree that they'll compete hard against the Bulldogs.
"I think we have the character and I think our team is coached well and I think our players play well and we practiced well this week," senior quarterback Rudy Carpenter said. "We're not going to let the UNLV hangover bother us."
"We've got a lot of guys that care," senior defensive tackle David Smith said. "This team has a lot of character. I think we're going to show up Saturday and have a good chance."
One of the reasons for the quick regrouping is that the opportunity presented by playing No. 3 Georgia. It's been an easy sell for a team that realizes it still has all of its goals ahead of it.
"I'll never forget about UNLV," Erickson said. "That'll last longer than any championship I've ever won, believe me. But [winning this game would take the] sting away a little bit. This is a great opportunity for us. National TV, national game, at home; we'll probably have a crowd out there. It'll be exciting. That's what college football is all about. To have these types of opportunities, you'd like to play a game like this every year."
Georgia tailback Knowshon Moreno had one of the top plays of the season when he hurdled a Central Michigan defender on a 29-yard run. Moreno has tremendous speed and elusiveness and limiting his Saturday production has been a key focus of ASU's this week.
"Coaches put on us that we have to fly to the ball," Smith said. "The first guy gets there we've got to have four more guys flying. Moreno is a good back, he runs hard, keeps his feet moving, he can cut on a dime, he can get to top speed and boom he's gone. So we've got to get to him and wrap him up."
Even though Georgia is undoubtedly the toughest opponent ASU has faced by far this season, some defensive players are feeling a little more comfortable going up against this style of opponent, because it's more in line with what they see on a regular basis in terms of scheme.
"It's more of a traditional offensive team," Smith said. "UNLV is more of a spread team compared to Georgia which is just like our offense, 12, 21 personnel. So it's more basic what we see every day from our offense. So the run, I think we have a chance to shut it down like we did with Stanford because we squeeze the gaps and hold guys for linebackers to come clean."
Former Sun Devil great Randall McDaniel, a 12-time Pro Bowl honoree and a 2008 inductee to the National Football Foundation College Football Hall of Fame, was a visitor at Wednesday's practice, and guest speaker following the workout.
"He's truly one of the best that's ever played the game," Erickson said. "It's an honor to have him back and introduce him to the team and talk to the team a little bit. Things coming from him obviously are very important for our players."
Running back Keegan Herring ran very well on the sideline Wednesday, but there has been no update on his availability status for Saturday.
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