Familiarity defines ASU's next opponent

The more things change the more they stay the same, and that adage rings true concerning Oregon State who will host ASU this weekend. Sun Devil head coach Dennis Erickson turned around the Beaver program in the beginning of this decade and when Mike Riley took over in 2003 he has had only one losing season since creating a consistent quality program in the conference.

Oregon State (1-2) is notorious for its slow starts, although this year it may be for a good reason as they played two road (one technically on neutral site just miles from its opponent's campus) games against top 5 opponents: TCU and Boise State.

"They had a chance to win both football games," Erickson said in his weekly press conference, "They are a quality football team. They were picked very high by everyone going into the season and I don't see why they still shouldn't be. They have a lot of experience back and any time you have the Rodgers brothers you have a chance. Jacquizz Rodgers is so strong and quick, and he can break it any time. James Rodgers got hurt but I know he is going to play."

The Arizona State head coach complimented Oregon State's front five and their signal caller Ryan Katz who the Sun Devil did recruit a few years back.

"He makes some throws that are very difficult to make," Erickson remarked, "but like Steven Threet, he is learning and experience only comes from games."

While ASU is hurting following two consecutive and frustrating losses to Wisconsin and Oregon, at 1-2 Oregon State is desperately looking to get back in the winning column as well.

"We have to find a way to win the football game and that's the bottom line," Erickson confessed. "Once you start winning games, it becomes contagious. We're playing pretty decent and I am happy with where we are at, except not winning these last two football games.

"I like their attitude and mind set. We have to be road warriors for the next month, which is unusual. We don't get into our stadium for a month, so we better be good at other people's stadiums."

Erickson doesn't believe his squad necessarily has to learn to win, but rather just go out and earn the win. Needless to say, that the turnovers in the red zone in the Oregon game cannot be repeated if the team is seeking out a win this week and the rest of the 2010 slate

"People can ask you anything about that football game but that's it right there," Erickson explained, "We were down in the red-zone nine times. We turned it over three times down there. We fumbled and had two picks down there. That's almost half the times down there. We scored three touchdowns and had a field goal down there.

"It's not what we are doing down there (scheme wise). We just have to execute and get points. On the other one, I went for it on fourth-down and they held us. If I had to do it again I probably would have kicked the field goal. No one is second guessing ourselves more than me."

Quarterback Steven Threet was the epitome of a bag of mixed goods last Saturday. He completed 30 of 53 passes for 387 yards three touchdowns, yet also had four interceptions, three of them in the fourth quarter, and a first half pick that was returned for a touchdown.

"I don't have any loss of confidence in Steven Threet at all," Erickson noted. "He had a bad game and made some mental mistakes. That's what comes with that position. With our offense, every time the football is snapped he has to make a decision, and that's a lot to put on the quarterback. He just made some bad decisions on where to throw the football. He was trying to make a play. The great ones do that.

"He's a competitor and he's tough. He got hit a lot of times and he stood in there. He made a lot of good plays in that football game. You take the good with the bad, but he will get better because he wants to be the best he can be and help us win football games."

One offensive aspect ASU seemed to struggle with was short yardage situations. During fall camp the offense did run those situations with Threet under center rather than his usual shotgun formation and Erickson mentioned that this formation will continued to be used in practices this season. Nonetheless, lining up under center or in shotgun isn't the issue according to ASU's head coach.

"The plan with what we want to do in the run game is fine," Erickson said. "Turnovers are the problem. We spend a lot of time on the run game in practice. If I thought having him under center was the answer, then I would have him there every down. That's not the answer though. We just have to correct it."

After being healthy for several weeks now, the offensive line was once again hit with an injury, this time to left tackle Dan Knapp. Erickson stated that Knapp is questionable for the Beavers game and probably won't practice before Thursday.

"We're going to move Evan Finkenberg to left tackle and play him there," Erickson said about the ensuing position shuffle. "We will give Andrew Sampson the opportunity to play right guard. We think he is a good football player who hasn't had an opportunity there. Aderious Simmons will play at right tackle and we will mix him in some. That's the only way he will get better and his upside is extremely good."

In the last two games true freshman Deantre Lewis has been averaging 13.6 and 11.5 yards a carry respectively, and thus could be elevated to the starting lineup this week since he has earned that promotion according to Erickson, who added that he likes how incumbent Cameron Marshall has been playing as well.

"They are different backs, which is a good combination to have," Erickson said. "Cameron is a tough runner and is a good pass-blocker. Deantre gives us more out in space, as does Jamal Miles. All three will play, so it won't make a difference who the starter is.

"But Deantre has obviously been a pretty good homerun hitter for us which is invaluable particularly in the offense that we are running right now. When he gets a crack, particularly in that short yardage play (where Lewis scored on a 53-yard run) when it took it to the house. We haven't had that in a while."

The Oregon game was undoubtedly wide receiver Gerell Robinson's coming out party. The junior who was dealing with a pulled hamstring all of last month had a career day with seven catches for 94 yards.

"It wasn't a surprise. He had a great spring and had a great fall camp, the two days that he was in it. He is healthy now and is making plays. It's great for him and great for us. It's nice to see him come out like that."

Under Erickson Oregon State finished 11-1 during the 2000 season, and this weekend in Corvallis there will be a reunion event to commemorate that achievement. Just don't count on Erickson to be part of the festivities.

"I think I'll be busy," Erickson quipped. "I enjoyed my time in Corvallis. It was a great four years. We had three pretty good teams, one very good team. Great fans and just outstanding people. There are a university that has struggled for many years to even have a winning season. In 1999 we had a winning season (7-4) and they didn't have that since 1970.

"It's a good place and Mike Riley has some an unbelievable job there with the stability and winning."


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