Erickson Reflects, Focuses On Missouri

Having already had three full days to breakdown and digest his team's performance in their season opener, a 48-14 win over the Aggies of UC-Davis, head coach Dennis Erickson was ready to analyze his team's performance with the media on Monday and shift his focus to the task ahead.

"Obviously we were much more talented than they were coming in and it ended up how it should have ended up," reflected Erickson on his team's win last week. "I thought offensively, particularly in the front and at quarterback, I thought it was a pretty good day. Defensively, our first group did good.

"Probably the biggest disappointment was our second team in a lot of areas didn't do what we had anticipated them to do, but that's the nature of a game like that," said Erickson, as the Sun Devils allowed two late scoring drives to the overwhelmed Aggies, spoiling the shutout. "We won like we should have won and our players looked at it, corrected some mistakes, and now we can obviously go on."

A couple backups who stood out to the head coach were running backs Marcus Washington and R.J. Robinson, who combined for 71 rushing yards on 17 carries, helping to sustain multiple second half drives for the Sun Devils. Their performances should come as little surprise to those who have followed the offseason practices, and will hopefully allow each player to stay in the running back rotation going forward.

"I thought those two young running backs did pretty well when they got the opportunity to get in there," said Erickson. "I thought Tyler Sulka did real good in the offensive front for us and Kody Kobensky also played pretty good in the offensive front.

"Defensively, actually, Matt Tucker came in and did some good things," he added. "And really Kevin Ayers came in and played pretty well for not really practicing with that group very much. So we had some guys who played pretty well. Sometimes you get into a game like that and they just get sloppy and you're just happy to get out alive."

Unfortunately for the Devils though, there were a couple players who suffered injuries, one serious, which has been an ongoing theme for this team so far. And while most everyone appears to be set to go for this week's game, it appears as though freshman safety Ezekial Bishop will be lost for the season.

"I mean we had some bumps and bruises, but when we walked through yesterday, everybody was out there and pretty healthy," commented Erickson. "Ezekial Bishop, as we said, was playing really well for us. I mean, he was in that second group at safety and he got an injured ACL on kickoff coverage, so he'll be able to redshirt and obviously can't play this year. He and Devan Spann will both have surgery in the next couple of weeks."

Erickson also indicated that Kevin Ayers will most likely slide into Bishop's slot at backup safety.

While Bishop's status is set, it still looks like Aderious Simmons will need a couple more days to decide if he can go due to a sprained ankle he suffered early in last Thursday's contest. . Most likely a game time decision, Erickson is doubtful Simmons will be able to participate, though maybe in a reduced role.

"We had a walk through yesterday and he wasn't able to do anything, so I don't think that he'll play," remarked Erickson. "He may be able to backup, but we'll start Dan Knapp at right tackle and Evan Finkenberg at left tackle. Fortunately we have some depth there and hopefully he can come in and backup. If not, Tyler Sulka will backup at right tackle and we'll flop Knapp if we happen to have an injury."

As for junior quarterback Brock Osweiler, who struggled throughout the game with cramps due to dehydration, Erickson expects him to take the necessary precautions this week and to be fully ready for his normal duties this week.

"You know he got those cramps in that game where he was one of a few who had them, and really, it was the first time we've had cramps since I've been here," remarked Erickson. "And I'm not making excuses, but that was hot. You can drink as much water and Gatorade as you want but sometimes you're just going to cramp up.

"There were a lot of people cramping up, but he's feeling fine," he continued. "Instead of drinking two gallons of that water everyday, he's drinking three."

With the UC-Davis Aggies now in the rearview, the Sun Devils can turn their attention to a game fans, coaches and players have all had circled on their calendars for months now. The Missouri Tigers visit Tempe this Friday in a marquee non-conference matchup that should provide a measuring stick for both programs going forward.

"This will be big to find out where we're at, there's no question about it, particularly against a team that's been established for however many years they've been established, seven or eight years," said Erickson. "It'll give us a pretty good feel for where we're at going into our league. I'm excited about playing the game as opposed to playing a game where you might not know where you're at afterwards.

"I'm anxious and I know our players are anxious to play in a game like this early in the season," he added. "Obviously they've done a lot of very good things, but we think we have a chance to be pretty good, but we'll know more about us after that football game."

Erickson says that he looks forward to playing a team like Missouri, not just because of their early preseason ranking, but because of their recent history of success on the field. It's a benchmark his Sun Devils are chasing, and hoping to take a step towards when the teams clash on the field Friday night on national television.

"You take Missouri as a whole, what they've done since Gary has been there, they've been to like seven straight bowl games, or something like that," he told the media. "They're right there at the top of one of the better conferences in the country. I've always had great respect for them.

"Offensively they're very similar to a lot of the things we do," he added. "They'll spread you out, do no huddle, and those types of things. They've got a lot of talent on their offensive front, other than they lost their left tackle a couple of weeks ago. They've got great receivers. And I like Franklin."

Defensively, the Tigers are one of the better units in the country. Their size and speed should match up well with the high octane Sun Devil attack, and test the mettle of Osweiler.

"Defensively, they got a lot of guys coming back," commented Erickson on the Tigers defense. "Their front four we thought, from watching tape, is as good as we've seen in a while. They're very fast and very athletic.

"They're very similar to us in a lot of ways on defense," he said. "They're a top 25 football, I don't really know what else you can say about them."

The Tigers will present a much more difficult task for the Sun Devils, especially on defense where they'll be forced to try to contain James Franklin, the Missouri duel-threat quarterback who can be a matchup nightmare for opposing teams.

"When he's a real threat in the game plan is when he runs, and you've got to account for him at all times," said Erickson of Franklin. "It slows your pursuit down a little bit. As opposed to just running at that running back who gets the football, now all of a sudden it slows you down because he's reading things or they'll have a call with the quarterback.

" Like when they have nobody in the backfield, except the quarterback, they still have a threat back there to run, which is him," Erickson continued. "So you move all your linebackers back into coverage and he can still run the football. You've just got to account for him."

On Thursday, the Sun Devils blitzed more than they have in recent years, allowing their talented linebacking core attack the backfield at will. Erickson expects his team to continue to play to their strong suits, but cautions that his team must be prepared for a different kind of offensive attack than the Aggies offered.

"We're going to do what we do," he stated. "Some blitz when there isn't anybody in the backfield because they can't protect and you can bring one more. Others don't because they're afraid once he gets in that secondary, there's nobody there.

"Will we blitz as much? Probably, but I don't know," he said. "But we feel we have a team, with our personnel, who can bring it a little bit more. We might just bring five guys, with just the one linebacker."

Friday's contest has been branded as a blackout event, where the Sun Devils will finally unveil their new all black uniforms on the field. It's an experience unlike anything the Sun Devils have had and one Erickson says his team is excited for, but warns that the Sun Devils will still need to play at their highest level to be competitive.

"They've been excited for it since they saw the black uniforms," commented Erickson. "There's a lot of hype and other things involved in this game on campus with the uni's and all that stuff. Like I've said many times, it's not the uni's, it's who's in the uni's.

"But it'll be exciting," he added. "It's going to be an emotional, exciting time for our football team, and not just because of the uni's or anything like that, but because we're playing a pretty good football team."

Sun Devil Source Top Stories