What we have here is a failure to communicate. Arizona State visits Washington State in order to play a football game at Martin Stadium in Pullman on Saturday. But both the Sun Devils and Cougars have at least two similarities - the first is that both teams have been slow starters in games in the 2009 season. The Sun Devils have been outscored by a modest 28-23 in the first quarter - but that includes easy wins over Idaho State and Louisiana-Monroe, when they only outscored both schools by a combined 17-0 in the first quarter. Still, that looks pretty good when compared to the Cougars, who have been outscored by a whopping 77-0 in the first quarter. It is a trend shared by both head coaches Dennis Erickson and Paul Wulff in their brief stints so far at Arizona State and Wazzu, respectively.
But first quarter scoring aside, both teams also share another problem - the ubiquitous starting quarterback issue. Neither fan base is happy with who their starting quarterback is. In the case of the Cougars, it is due primarily to injury. In the case of the Sun Devils, it is due primarily to performance. Redshirt senior quarterback Danny Sullivan has started the first four games of the 2009 season but aside from wins over lowly ISU and UL-Monroe [who are a combined 3-7], he has been less-than-spectacular against Georgia and Oregon State, leaving the ASU fans and well-wishers to call for backups Brock Osweiler or Samson Szakacsy to be given a shot at starting. Erickson has already indicated that their may be situations where he decides to play Osweiler or Szakacsy against Wazzu this week.
That is an issue because the Sun Devils' pass efficiency rating currently ranks 102nd in the NCAA and it is not like ASU can rely on their rushing offense to help out - the Sun Devils are ranked 91st there.
There is good news for the Sun Devils - but it mostly comes on defense - where ASU leads the Pac-10 and is second in the country in turnover margin. The Sun Devils' total defense also leads the conference as does their pass defense. The turnover margin and pass defense are so stellar because of a combined six interceptions from seniors Jarrell Holman and Mike Nixon. But not all is rosy on defense as the defensive line production is slacking. The ASU defensive line has only been able to produce three total sacks in four games so far this year [by comparison, the injury-depleted Wazzu defensive line has six sacks in five games].
On special teams, the Sun Devils lost kicker Thomas Weber for most of the season with a groin injury but replacement Bobby Wenzig has been adequate in his place and punter Trevor Hankins has been excellent so far this year - averaging 45.26 yards per boot.
In the big picture, ASU's struggling offense - starting quarterback notwithstanding - will likely have their best opportunity since the Idaho State game to make any headway. On the other hand, since it is homecoming for Wazzu and the Cougars are coming off a less-than-inspiring performance against Oregon, the Sun Devil offense could also face a fired up Cougar defense that has, at times [two fourth-and-goal defensive stands against USC] shown that they can show up in games.
All-in-all, this game gives all the appearances of being a low-scoring affair with ASU's defense holding off the Cougars' injury-riddled offense and the Sun Devils' stagnant offense possibly facing a motivated Wazzu defense. With special teams being about even, the difference could come down to turnovers and there, the numbers favor ASU.
WSU continues their football season against ASU at 2 p.m. on Saturday, October 10 at Martin Stadium in Pullman.
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Autumn is here and you know what that means It's time for a whole new season of Cougar Athletics! Football, soccer, volleyball, men's & women's basketball, baseball, track & field and tennis, just to name a few, are coming up right around the corner. If you need "game action" photographs for your newspaper, magazine, web site, blog, etc., then Greg Davis Sports Photography should be your choice for all things "Cougar" and "Pac-10 Conference"! Coverage for specific athletes or upcoming events is also available. Check out the images from games, practices and events from last season, and be sure to come back often for uploads from all of this season's action.