Devils eager for some home cooking

One reason for the high expectations placed on the 2011 Sun Devils was the fact that the maroon and gold were going to play 7 of their 12 games at Sun Devil Stadium. Therefore, as much as ASU is reeling after two straight losses, playing its next two games in Tempe gives the team hope that it can improve its current 6-4 record and finish on a strong note.

"The crowd, confidence, the speed we play at, the field itself, there's a lot of things involved in that," said head coach Dennis Erickson listing the factors that have allowed Arizona State to be thus far a perfect 5-0 at home. "We played pretty well at home. Obviously, we're pretty good and have an opportunity to go 6-0. I'll just say this: I'd rather play here than playing on the road."

"I think about (the road struggles) every day to be very honest with you. We haven't been very good since I've been here. To me it's more of a mental thing than anything. We just have to find a way to be more focused. As I get into the offseason and look at it, I have to sit down and look at it, talk to our players, talk to our seniors about it. There really isn't anything that they would change, so it's a matter of getting focused. I have to sit down in the offseason and talk to all of them again and see what would make a difference."

Quarterback Brock Osweiler said that he and his teammates naturally feel more comfortable playing in their friendly confines. "You have the crowd behind you," Osweiler explained, "you're playing on a field that you are very used to. You're not traveling, you're staying at a hotel you're used to, eating at the same restaurants…so there is something to be said to staying at home.

"I think this football team takes a lot of pride in protecting its home field. This is our house and we don't anyone to come in here and disrespect us in our house and we have been taking care of business in our home."

***

ASU begins its two-game homestand playing its archrival University of Arizona on Saturday night. Erickson stated that he has much respect for former Wildcats' head coach Mike Stoops, who was fired earlier in the season and feels that Arizona ever since have been with a lot of passion.

"Offensively, they have tremendous skill," Erickson remarked. "That's never changed. They're playing with a lot of passion for the coaches and for their pride because they have a lot of pride in the program. It's a rivalry game so as we all know it's going to be a heck of a war anyway."

The Territorial Cup contest will mark the second time ASU will employ a blackout, which has Osweiler expecting an "electric" crowd at Sun Devil stadium. Nonetheless, he doesn't feel that the uniform combination ultimately affects the team's play.

"As much as I'd like to think that we feel like superheroes when we have the all-black on, I really don't know if we get those special powers," Osweiler quipped. "It's fun. I know in the first blackout there was a lot of excitement going into it. So I expect the same thing this time."

***

Osweiler played extensively in only two games last season, versus UCLA and Arizona. While UCLA was the signal caller's coming out party, the game against Arizona was by his own admission "Sloppy" and was a direct result of his inexperience at the time.

"I've come a long way from last year," Osweiler said. "My pocket presence especially. They were getting a lot of pressure from the edges last year and I wasn't handing it very well and was running too soon trying to make plays with my feet. The thing I remember the most is that we won and that is all that matters."

"He played well in those two opportunities," Erickson recalled. "As I've mentioned many times before, he has tremendous leadership skills, which is what it's all about. The team has rallied around him this year, and I think you saw that in the UCLA game a year ago, but probably the University of Arizona game more than anything. He wasn't on, but he found a way to be successful, and that's kind of what he's all about."

***

Two weeks ago the chatter in the media and among the Sun Devil nation was generally surrounded how soon Erickson should be receiving his contract extension. Fast forward to today and following two consecutive losses, and ASU's head coach is often mentioned in the dreaded hot seat talk.

"The administration has been very supportive," said Erickson. "We're all trying to accomplish the same thing right now, and that's to beat the University of Arizona more than anything. I can't worry about that, I can just worry about the game."

Osweiler admitted that he and his teammates are aware of the uncertainty that surrounds the future of their head coach, yet at the same time are focused on the task at hand.

"That just goes with the game of football," Osweiler stated. "You don't win, you get fired. If you don't produce as a player, you're probably won't start. So we're aware of it but that isn't the major concern. You can't have things like that on your mind, so you have to focus on your opponent and game plan and however things work themselves out on Saturday then you go from there."

The ASU quarterback does believe that despite his team's struggles in the last tandem of games that he and his teammates can rebound and get back to their winning ways.

"We're fighting through it," Osweiler said of the mental state of his squad. "Obviously we didn't think that we would lose both of these games to UCLA and Washington State. But sometimes life throws you a curveball and it's all about how you bounce back from it. Right now from what I saw from the guys in the building today we're mentally sharp and we're bouncing back the way we need to.

"We understand that this week is a very big week for this football program. I think that by the time we hit the field for practice tomorrow (Tuesday) guys will be mentally right to take on this week's challenges."


Sun Devil Source Top Stories