"We just have to focus on Colorado right now and then go onto the next one, which is what we've been doing all year. Obviously, in this league, a lot of things can happen as you've seen. You can play really well and then all of a sudden you can get on a bad streak. We have a lot of things in front of us that we can accomplish but we have to go out and accomplish them one game at a time."
Junior quarterback Brock Osweiler concurred with his head coach concerning this approach.
"I think in the game of football, sometimes you'll see a team looking past another team," Osweiler admitted. "[This week] it will be a good test for us, but I think a lot of that credit needs to go to Coach Erickson. He keeps us very focused on just that, one week at a time. That's where I learned it, Coach Mazzone passes it down and as a result that sentence goes around this building often. Just focus on the Buffalos this week, just focus on Colorado and that's what we do and hopefully we'll take care of business."
Needless to say that the Buffaloes' inaugural season in the Pac-12 has been a challenging one. Even though Colorado is in full rebuilding mode with a first-year head coach, Jon Embree, and has yet to win a road game in three years, they still have Coach Erickson's undivided attention.
"I think they're a football team that has some injury issues as we all know," Erickson commented. "It depends on who is playing for them. For us, it's a game that we just have to focus on who we play. They've got some explosiveness offensively. (Tyler) Hansen is a good quarterback. They're going to come in here fired up, ready to play. They're a football team that's injured and really young, but like anything in football you better play your rear-ends off or else you aren't going to win."
Osweiler said that the Colorado defense will present some unique challenges this week that will require extra preparation time.
"They do a few things that we haven't seen so far this year as far as coverage goes," Osweiler explained. "It's something we have seen in the past, just not this year. So we have to study a lot of tape this week to be prepared for what they are going to throw at us.
"I see them being a pretty athletic defense, they are very assignment-sound, they don't seem to mess up coverages or stunts and they play hard. I expect them to come down here and give us their best shot and we're going to be ready to roll." ***
Speaking of injuries, the bye week allowed many Sun Devil players to rest and take care of bumps and bruises that have been nagging them for weeks and even months. One such player is running back Cameron Marshall, who suffered ankle sprain back in August and has in effect yet to be 100 percent healthy during the 2011 season. Erickson spoke of the effect that a brief hiatus has had on the junior.
"It helped quite a bit," Erickson admitted. "In watching him practice yesterday we got a chance to see. He moved around better than he has all year. Rest really helped him. It helped a lot of guys. We have some guys that haven't missed games but were beat up with shoulders or ankles or whatever and that period of time really made a difference. With Cameron, you could really see a significant difference with what he did yesterday."
Defensive end Junior Onyeali, who injured his knee in week three and underwent meniscus surgery will return to the playing field and face his hometown team. A future return date this season is still possible for senior cornerback Omar Bolden who tore his ACL back in April and has been ahead of schedule in his rehab.
"He was actually on the scout team the other day," Erickson said of Bolden. "He's moving around pretty well. I don't know if or when he will play. It's up to him and the doctors. I know he wouldn't play this week. It's week by week with him. (Evan) Finkenberg, I don't know that he'll play this week either. He's close, but we'll see as practice goes on. We've had some other guys that are beat up, but I don't think there's anybody else that won't play other than those two."
Osweiler stated that the timing of the bye week could not have been better and he too saw noticeable differences in practice.
"Guys were very energized yesterday," Osweiler commented. "There was a little extra speed from the guys, which I hadn't seen in a few weeks. My arm, for example, the first three throws we had I overthrew the guy and I was wondering where that juice came from. I haven't had that in a few weeks. It was great. I think the guys are refreshed and excited to get this week rolling, play [Colorado] and go from there."
When asked about his quarterback's play throughout the first seven games of the season, Erickson said that Osweiler has played "really well" and that his understanding of the offense and error rate for being relatively inexperienced has been solid.
"There were good things and there were bad things," Osweiler said of his performance thus far in 2011. "There were times where I was very happy with my play and then there were times where I wasn't so happy. [The bad times] are the times that almost benefit you more because you really learn from those games. The Illinois game, the Oregon State game in the first quarter, certain situations like that, you really take a lot from it and I think it's important in the learning curve of playing quarterback."
The Sun Devil signal caller, who started just two games prior to his junior year, said that there is no substitute for game experience, and that factor has been paramount in his development.
"I really feel that every game that I play in and finish I'm getting better," Osweiler confessed, "more comfortable, and everything is really slowing down. It has been very noticeable as far as me recognizing blitzes, coverages and what to do. Things have really slowed down with every single football game and hopefully that continues and we continue to win football games and get better each week.
"It's (football) secondhand nature now. (Offensive Coordinator) Coach Noel Mazzone and I can communicate on the same level, we know exactly what the other guy is thinking, what he's trying to do, what I'm trying to do and it's to the point where I am on the field and I'll come to the sidelines and he'll say I knew you were going to throw it to that guy or I called this play because I knew you were going to do this. Things are at a good point right now." ***
While there are many positives associated with a bye week, maintaining your edge in the first game back from that layoff can sometimes be a problematic proposition. Osweiler admitted that he didn't know how he and his teammates would respond regarding that aspect this weekend, but he believed that their season long approach could certainly aid in this challenge.
"I do know that this team has been very good about taking it one week at a time," Osweiler said, "and I think that's the most important thing with these next five football games. If we do that and just stay focused on that one team I think that will help us come to the games ready - like we should - and handle business."