Devils feel prepared for first road game

The maroon and gold are one day closer to their road matchup against Illinois. Head coach Dennis Erickson and his players feel that they can correct the mistakes from last week's contest against Missouri in order to have a solid showing in Champaign on Saturday.

"We've practiced well, we've been good mentally," Erickson said. "We just have to take it out onto the field now. Tackling to me is just getting to the guy with the football. Like I said, we have good tacklers so hopefully that doesn't change overnight because I'm anxious to watch us play."

Coming off an exciting win in overtime against the Tigers, the Sun Devils had to quickly shift their focus to Illinois. In their previous matchups, the Fighting Illini faced two lower caliber teams and may be hard to accurately gage at this point. Yet, Erickson fully expects to face an effective and mobile offense.

"They're kind of like USC in some ways," commented Erickson. "They give you a lot of different formations. They'll run the football but their quarterbacks are very mobile. They'll run some read options and stuff so it won't be too bad."

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As for the Sun Devil offense, lead by quarterback Brock Osweiler, put up 37-points against the Tigers showing strength in their passing game with 388 yards but struggled somewhat to get their run game going.

"A run game is an offenses and especially a quarterbacks best friend," Osweiler stated. "If we can get the ball to Cameron (Marshall), Jamal (Miles) and Kyle (Middlebrooks) and the offensive line gets some movement up front we can build the run game early. I think it will really open our play option game and the rest of our passing game and plus anytime on the road its going to be louder so if you can hand the ball off and get 5,6,7 yards a pop, that will get your offense rolling."

Rushing for 22 times for 65 yards last week, Marshall himself was naturally disappointed in his performance as well as the running backs group all together.

"They (Missouri) were running some line games and that caught us off-guard," Marshall confessed. "We need to have a different scheme today and we'll be good. We need have more variety.

"I don't if there is one specific area (that needs improvement). I think it's just a combination (of things)…we just need to see it earlier, see it better and react to it. We definitely expected to do more and we are disappointed that we weren't able to contribute more. It's just a matter of fixing the little things and putting our guys in the right spots. We are looking forward to a much better performance this week."

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One of the keys to the Sun Devil offense last week was wide receiver Aaron Pflugrad who had a career high game against Mizzou with 8 catches for 180 yards and 2 touchdowns.

"I'm not surprised one bit," Osweiler said of his teammate. "That kid worked hard all summer, and the entire offseason. His work ethic is something that is very hard to explain, its up and beyond what the normal athlete can do. Nothing beats hard work and Pflugrad has done a lot of that."

Another weapon that the maroon and gold offense possesses lies in their kick return unit lead by Jamal Miles and Kyle Middlebrooks.

"Those guys are so talented physically, mentally," Osweiler said. "They do a lot of things that you can't coach guys to do and some guys just flat out can't do. They're two tremendous athletes and I'm just glad they're all on our side."

Defensively the maroon and gold didn't fare as well as they hoped against Mizzou, giving up 501 offensive yards and 30 points to the Tigers, an unusual occurrence for the Sun Devil defense.

"That's hard for me to judge because I'm not around them all day but it seems like they've come out with a chip on their shoulder," Osweiler admitted of his defense. "Like I said they've practiced very hard, been very disciplined and they've been getting after it this week."

The Sun Devils will travel to Champaign for their first road game of the season and into an unfamiliar Big-10 environment. The team practiced this even while blaring noise during team drills to prepare them for what will undoubtedly be a hostile environment.

"I would say the first thing is, you don't have 70,000 people wearing black shirts screaming their head off," Osweiler commented. "We're going to go into an environment where they're 2-0 with high expectations for the year, they have a great tradition in their football program so you just have to go and be very focus. We have to stick to the fundamentals and do what we've been coached to do." Marshall feels that an experienced team such as the Sun Devils, who have already traveled to hostile environments such as Georgia and Wisconsin, not to mention rowdy Pac-12 stadiums such as Oregon and Arizona, won't be rattled by the less than friendly reception that awaits them at Memorial Stadium at Saturday.

"That's really not going to bother us," Marshall stated.

The running back added that he doesn't feel this week's contest will be the proverbial ‘trap game' as ASU is coming off an emotional win and is about to host USC in the Pac-12 opener next week.

"We don't take anything for granted here," Marshall explained. "With having lost so many games in the past and so many close games at that, we don't celebrate (wins) too long. (Missouri) was definitely a good win and we're happy about it. But nothing we have done last week will help us for this week.

"We know that from here on out we need to win every game and that's our mentality."

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Wide receiver J.J. Holliday has recovered for his broken collarbone and will travel with them, as will true freshman defensive tackle Mo Latu who joined fall practice late last month after waiting to be academically cleared but has practiced with the second team the last couple of weeks. It remains to be see whether or not either will see action on Saturday.


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