Devils' resilience is encouraging

The Sun Devils certainly didn't earn any style points in their 37-30 overtime last week against Missouri, yet it was a victory that did reveal grit and perseverance that was largely lacking for the 2010 ASU team. Despite all the mishaps, and there were plenty of them last Friday night, the team's resolve was an extremely positive trait for ASU to exhibit.

"It showed that we found a way to win, and to me, that's what it's all about," said Arizona State head coach Dennis Erickson of his team's recent victory. "We've lost games like that before and we won this game. Finding a way to get things done is a key to good football teams and we were able to do that. "We gave them (Missouri) opportunities and they took advantage of the opportunities. They missed a field goal, we take it in, they're four-and-out and we win the game. We can all say what we want, but the bottom line is we're 2-0 and now we go to our third game."

ASU was leading Missouri 30-16 less than a minute into the fourth quarter, just to see that advantage disappear later that period. Keeping their composure ultimately served the Sun Devils well.

"There was a little energy that died out, but it wasn't anything bad," claimed quarterback Brock Osweiler. "The greatest thing I saw was when that 14-point lead kind of slid away, our team came together. There were guys on the sideline picking other guys up. Everybody was very focused and people were bringing energy back to the team on the sideline.

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The win couldn't have been achieved without the Tigers missing a 48-yard field goal with just 12 seconds left in regulation. Missouri's Grant Ressel was ‘iced' twice by timeouts prior to that crucial kick, but ironically it was his head coach, Gary Pinkel, who called for stoppages of play.

"Vontaze (Burfict) had been coming up the middle on every one of those kicks they had," Ericson commented. "His timing was pretty good as he was going in and out. I think that Gary (Pinkel) felt like they could draw him off and get an extra five to kick it. Obviously, he didn't come offside, so the strategy was right, it just didn't work."

In a game where the Sun Devils committed 12 penalties for 110 yards, they were able to show restraint and avoid an unlucky 13th infraction which very well could seal the game's fate.

"Everyone calls that discipline, and I agree to a point," Erickson explained, "but sometimes you're covering a guy and your technique fails a little bit, or you grab a guy, or whatever. The offside things are probably a little more discipline than technique things. They tried to draw (Burfict) offside and he hung in there pretty well. He didn't come off."

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ASU's defense certainly didn't have their best outing surrendering 501 yards of total offense and 30 points, and were able the thwart the visitors' fourth quarter efforts to tie the score.

"We've got a lot of improvement to make," Erickson confessed. "We tackled very poorly in that football game the other night, there's no question about it. That's obvious if you watched it. Normally we don't tackle like that. We tackled very well in camp; we tackled very well in the spring. We'll tackle better in this football game. To me, that was probably the biggest thing that jumped out at us, making tackles in open field and we're going to have to against these guys.

"If I had the answer to that (poor tackling) question we wouldn't have tackled so badly. Maybe we were out of control, I don't know. We weren't in control enough to make the tackles and get enough people there. I really don't have an answer other than we're better than that and we just have to be under control and get people to the football. That's what tackling is all about. You just have to play defense and get a lot of people there."

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ASU will surely not rest on its laurels as they prepare for their first road game of the 2011 season and a visit to the University of Illinois, an opponent Erickson said can pose some serious challenges to the his team.

"They've been building that thing for quite a while," Erickson remarked concerning the Illinois football program. "They have some really good athletes, probably faster and more athletic than most teams in that league. We've studied them all summer. We have a pretty good idea of what they're doing. Paul Petrino is the offensive coordinator, from the Petrino group, the Montana group. They're very similar to Arkansas in a lot of ways offensively. Defensively, they change things up. Vic Koenning is the defensive coordinator; he was the head coach at Wyoming for a while.

"They have an outstanding staff and they've done a nice job. We have an idea of what they're going to do, and now it's a matter of getting prepared. It's the first game on the road and we'll find out what we're all about. You can't rest, so we're just anxious to go play again."

Two of Osweiler's four career starts took place at the hostile environments of Oregon's Auzten Stadium and Arizona Stadium, and the Sun Devils signal caller feels that those experiences can serve him well in getting ready for this upcoming road test.

"I have to come in and prepare the same way I do all week long," Osweiler said. "Come game day I just have to be locked in. Nothing really changes. We are going to a place where it is going to be a loud, energized environment, but nothing changes from the day-to-day basis. We just have to be locked in when we get on that plane on Thursday and understand what we are going to Illinois to do. That is to play a great football game and hopefully come out with a win."

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On paper the Illinois contest has the making of a trap game, as some players are undoubtedly thinking of next week's Pac-12 opener and home match up against USC - a game that will probably rival the hype and expectations of last week's Missouri game. Nonetheless, Erickson feels that the makeup of his team won't allow that potentially dangerous emotion consume them.

"We're going to have to play our rear ends off just to win the game," Erickson said. "If we play a letdown then we're not going to win. I don't think so, I really don't. That's where leadership comes into play. When you come off a win, it's a lot easier playing a game than when you come off a loss, I don't care what anybody says. We won two football games; we have ten games left. We have to take them one at a time.

"One game is not a heck-of-a-lot huger than other games. Obviously when you get into your league, things change a bit, but that's a good football team. They're kind of in the same situation that we're in. If you look at them a year ago, I think they were 6-6, went to a bowl game. Ron (Zook) feels like he has a football team that can compete for the championship there, so they're kind of in a similar situation that we're in. If you watch them on tape and the returners that they have, they're very talented. We've got our hands full, and our players know that."


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