Stretch Run Looms for Senior Linebacker

It may not end up being the storybook ending to a fine career at Arizona State for senior linebacker Gerald Munns. Yet, the defensive standout still sees reasons for fans and players alike to feel optimistic about the final five games of the season for the Sun Devils.

While a few narrow losses to highly ranked teams and a 50-17 blowout in the rainy Bay area last weekend may have left the Sun Devils with their work cut out for them if they hope to reach a bowl game, Munns still sees that there's a chance for this team to achieve some of its goals this season.

"We're disappointed our record isn't better; especially in the games that were closer than last week's," Munns said. "But you know, it's never too late to change, and we're all optimistic to get this thing turned around. It starts this week against Washington State."

The Sun Devils entered the 2010 season with a defense that had high hopes of being one of the elite squads in the nation. And while they've struggled a bit to duplicate last season's success on that side of the ball, the linebacker pointed out that it was more than just the defense not pulling their weight last weekend when the Golden Bears hung 50 points on the Sun Devils.

"Special teams. You put your defense in a tough position when the opposing offense only has 30-40 yards to go for a score," said Munns who is a member of some of those special teams units. "Our special teams were at fault for that. But not for the whole game. Our offense didn't move the ball a whole lot and put our defense in a tough position.

"We definitely have to get a grip on things on special teams and really get back to winning the field position battle."

This week though, with team practices being especially spirited, it appears as if the entire team is anxiously looking towards getting back on the field and finding that second conference win to right the ship.

"Everyone is together in this and we're all disappointed with what happened," Munns pointed out. "The way we're practicing this week, and even prior weeks, I don't see why that would happen again."

The first step in turning things around for the Sun Devils is to take care of business this weekend against Washington State. While the Cougars may currently reside in the Pac-10 basement, observers are quick to point out that they, similar to the Sun Devils, have been competitive in most of their games, and are more than capable of surprising a conference foe or two down the stretch.

"We know that Washington State is going to try scheme to what plays hurt us in the past, and we know they've got a heck of a team," Munns said. "A lot better than in years past. No one takes these guys lightly. We know what kind of quarterback they have on offense and the way they've been able to scheme against opposing defenses. It's definitely going to be a challenge, but we'll be up for it."

A strong defensive performance could go a long ways for the team on Saturday in bringing forth that much sought after fourth victory of the season. "This defense is hungry. We feel like we have something to prove every week," Munns commented. "We have to earn respect. Nobody is going to give it to us; we have to go take it from them. This is a defense who wants to execute and play fast and play hard. I think we take advantage of that every week. Hopefully we'll get back to that.

"We're going to throw a lot of different packages at them. We're going to try to keep them on their heels and guessing. We don't want to be predictable on defense and in order to do that you've got to be assignment sound and play hard."

With fellow linebackers Shelley Lyons out for the remainder of the season due to a broken foot and Oliver Aaron coming off a concussion suffered last weekend at the Cal game, the opportunity remains for Gerald Munns to see more action on the field as the season approaches its final stages. But does the linebacker anticipate he'll be receiving more playing time with all the other quality players on the depth chart with him?

"It really depends on the high's and low's of the game," Munns said. "Sometimes, as a coach, you've got to stick with what's working. Or if someone's playing pretty well you've to leave them in and give them their due time. As linebackers, we're always ready to roll."

So with five games remaining on the schedule, and the Sun Devils needing another four wins to become bowl eligible, does this team still feel it has a shot at playing in the postseason?

"Yeah! No doubt about it," Munns profoundly stated. "If we get back to what we do well, and don't take possessions off. We've got to get back to hustling and executing. That's the recipe."

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