Erickson giddy with quarterback's performance

While Sun Devil fans may have been unsure about what to expect from seldom-used sophomore quarterback Brock Osweiler, coach Dennis Erickson will tell you he had a plan this whole time. Brimming with delight after a convincing victory over the UCLA Bruins, a relaxed Sun Devil skipper took to the podium to expressing his confidence Friday's surprise player of the game.

"That's why I practiced him so much; I had a vision," joked Erickson. "I was real happy with how he played. He's a great competitor and a great athlete. We all know that."

The performance by Osweiler was a bit unexpected as Erickson once again opted to start junior Steven Threet despite splitting practice reps between the two quarterbacks for the past couple of weeks. Threet tough was injured late in the first quarter while attempting to scramble outside of the pocket.

"It looked like a helmet to helmet (hit), but I wasn't sure. I'm not sure what exactly happened," Erickson confessed. "While further examinations still need to be taken, the head coach speculated that the junior quarterback may have suffered a concussion on the play.

"Brock came in when Steven got the concussion and executed like we thought he could and we didn't miss a beat. Obviously there won't be any quarterback controversy in the press this week," Erickson quipped.

Throughout the season turnovers have been a major cause for concern for the Sun Devils. However, coming off a bye week and playing in front of the home crowd, Osweiler and company were able to limit their mistakes while picking apart the Bruins defense all afternoon.

"He came in and made some throws and missed some throws that you'd think would happen. But he made some good decisions and we didn't turn the football all. And that's huge," Erickson said. "No turnovers. No interceptions. He made wise decisions and threw it away when it wasn't there. He played like he had been playing all year."

Despite finding themselves in a hole early after a few quick UCLA scores, the Sun Devils were able to keep their composure and enforce their will as the game progressed.

"To fall behind 17-0 like we did, I wasn't sure what was going on to be honest with you," Erickson recalled. "The mood on the sidelines, we were pretty upset with ourselves and how we were playing. The bottom line is, the coaches settled them down. And that's what you got to do in that situation. You can't panic. It was early in the game and we're moving the football pretty well." "And then to fight back like that and win the game convincingly was huge for us. Our guys compete, other than that one game we're all aware of. Our guys have battled, and battled, and battled and had chances to win and couldn't quite close on some of them. We did today, finally. They deserve that win"

That momentum that the Devils built up during the second and third quarters almost unraveled before their eyes due to another constant theme this year, penalties.

Successive personal foul calls on freshman Junior Onyeali and sophomore Vontaze Burfict extended yet another UCLA drive, but also seemed to resurrect the defense from their early funk.

"The first penalty, I guess, Vontaze got hit out of bounds and Junior went over to him and I don't know what happened," Erickson recalled. "There was a lot of emotion in this football game, for whatever reason. Much more than in any other one. Maybe because it was our seniors going out. You don't want to see to see penalties, but you want to see how they react."

The defining drive up until that point of that game culminated in the Sun Devils stoutly turning away the Bruin offense on a goal line stand at the 1-yard line. "Obviously the goal stand there in the third quarter was big," Erickson remarked. "You get that and then take the football and drive down the field just kind of changed the momentum of the football game.

"I'm happy for our seniors. They've all contributed throughout their career, but they all contributed some today. It was just a good win. It's good to finish the season at home with a win like that."

The Sun Devils now must shift their attention to the annual showdown with Arizona next Thursday in Tucson. "A win like this at this time, it doesn't last very long. It's a quick turnover for both football teams, Arizona and us," Erickson commented. "I think any time you're in a rivalry, winning that football game is huge. It's big any year. But it's no different than any other year against them. That's just how the rivalry is. You can ask all those guys at the Ring of Honor that were out there how important that game is."

With just one game remaining on the calendar Erickson is focused on preparing his team for the task at hand of winning back the Territorial Cup from their hated rivals. Despite currently being a long shot to play in a post-season bowl game, the Sun Devil coach still sees plenty of reason for the Devils remain motivated before heading down to Tucson.

"All we can do is try to win a sixth game and then there's the (bowl game) possibility," Erickson said. "The most important thing for us right now is what's coming up here on Thursday night. Regardless of whom you beat or what your record is, that's a rivalry game that's like a lot of rivalry games I've been in.

"Our guys are going to celebrate tonight, and they should. But tomorrow starts another a week."

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