Oregon (3-0, 1-0 Pac-10) vs. ASU (3-1, 0-1)

ASU is coming off a landslide defeat at Cal, and is looking to reverse its fortunes in a hurry in their first Pac-10 home game this year. Oregon, coming off a controversial win against Oklahoma, is looking to remain undefeated in 2006. The two teams will meet Saturday at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Ariz. for a 12:30 p.m. PT kickoff which will be televised on ABC.

LAST WEEK: Arizona State (3-1, 0-1 Pac10) had a disastrous Pac-10 opener, as they were humbled by Cal on the road 49-21. The Sun Devils actually scored on the game's first drive, but turnovers and miscues led to 35 answered points by the Golden Bears in the first half, sealing the game's fate. ASU QB Rudy Carpenter had four interceptions, two of which were returned for scores, as well as a fumble. On the bright side, Sun Devil running back Ryan Torain was nearly unstoppable as he collected a career-best 191 yards on the ground. ASU's defense didn't give up any points in the second half, and overall faired well considering the fact that they were constantly defending a short filed due to the shortcomings of the ASU offense last Saturday. LAST WEEK: The Ducks had a bye and they needed it. After an emotional, albeit controversial win over Oklahoma the Ducks retired to the Autzen complex healing up and laying low. There is no question that the Pac-10 officiating crew had better days than they did when they came to Autzen Stadium on September 16th. Pac-10 Commissioner Tom Hanson has apologized for the blown calls, particularly the ruling giving Oregon the ball after an on-side kick late in the game. The blown call on the on-side kick was just one of several calls that were made against both teams that left many shaking their heads wondering what happened. Gordon Riece, the replay official was a long-time official that came out of retirement to man the replay booth. Riece's reputation and character had been spotless and it is a shame that his name will be forever associated with the missed calls. Bad calls or not, what is irrefutable is that Oregon scored two touchdowns in a mere 26 seconds to give them the lead in the game and then blocked a field goal attempt to secure the win. Oregon had 501 yards of total offense to Oklahoma's 381 yards scored 34 points to Oklahoma's 33.
KEY INJURIES: Andrew Carnahan, OL, out for the season with a torn ACL. KEY INJURIES: Jason Turner, FB, out for the season with a torn ACL.
WHEN ARIZONA STATE IS ON OFFENSE: Will the aerial Sun Devil attack yield to its emerging ground game? That is the question intriguing Sun Devil fans for the upcoming game against Oregon. QB Rudy Carpenter's struggles coupled with an inconsistent wide receiver unit may see a limited than usual role on Saturday. Sophomore wide receiver Nate Kimbrough has been the standout wide receiver the last couple of weeks, and may be the #1 target Rudy Carpenter seeks this weekend. Junior All-American tight end Zach Miller was limited by the Cal defense, and the ASU coaches will undoubtedly try to once again exploit the talents of this soft hands receiver.

JC transfer running back Ryan Torain has probably been the most consistent skilled position player on the team, and he will be joined by sophomore Keegan Herring, the team's starting running back, who missed the Cal game due to injury. A renewed emphasis on running the ball seems to be a given for this weekend's match-up, and with temperatures expected in the 100's at kickoff, could be an invaluable asset for the ASU attack. If nothing else, on Saturday one can expect a Sun Devil offense that will stress ball control and time of possession, with perhaps smaller than usual big plays down the field.
WHEN OREGON IS ON OFFENSE: Quarterback Dennis Dixon waited until the second half of the Oklahoma game to make a mistake and throw an interception, make that two interceptions. However, it was Dixon's play that was instrumental in cutting Oklahoma's 13-point lead and setting the game up for the final minute's dramatics. Dixon is 70-for-107, 817 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. He also has rushed for a net 83 yards on 21 carries and two scores. Dixon has an array of receivers that are fast and are all 6-1 or taller. Jaison Williams, 6-5, 243 has established himself as the go-to guy with 325 yards on 18 receptions, two touchdowns for a 108.3-yard average. Tight end Dante Rosario, 6-4, 250 has 11 catches for 126 yards and Brian Paysinger, 6-2, 208 has 114 yards on eight catches including the game-winning touchdown pass against Oklahoma. Jordan Kent, 6-5, 210 has seven catches, as does Garren Strong, 6-3, 200. Make no mistake though, the Ducks will run the ball behind budding superstar Jonathan Stewart. Stewart, 5-11, 234 has racked up 315 yards on 46 carries with four touchdowns. That gives him a 105-yard per game average which is impressive, but considering against Fresno State he carried the ball once for 3-yards and a touchdown. Sharing the rushing duties is Jeremiah Johnson, who was slowed down in the Oklahoma game with a hamstring problem, but in the Fresno State game he carried the ball for 74 yards and two touchdowns.
WHEN OREGON HAS THE BALL: The maroon and gold will have their secondary heavily tested with the Ducks' spread offense and a talented stable of wideouts. Nickel defense may be the norm on Saturday, with repeat appearances by safeties freshman Ryan McFoy and sophomore Jeremy Payton replacing one of the team's linebackers. The ASU defensive line and linebackers will have their hands full with a legitimate dual-threat QB in Dennis Dixon, which plays in a scheme that utilizes his mobility and makes it extremely difficult to sack. Speedy linebackers senior Derron Ware and junior Robert James will have to be extremely alert and anticipate Dixon's next move. Spread offense doesn't always translate into a one-dimensional passing attack, and this is certainly not the case with Oregon. Running back Jonathan Stewart is one of the Pac-10's best, and his team's multiple wide receivers surrounding him on each down allow him to contend with fewer defenders crowding the line of scrimmage. ASU's duo of defensive tackles senior Jordan Hill and junior Michael Marquardt will have to be exceptional in shedding blocks and stopping Stewart or any other Oregon ball carrier. On Saturday, they're likely to receive less support than usual in stopping the run with the linebackers and safeties consumed with handling Dixon and the spread attack. WHEN ARIZONA STATE HAS THE BALL: The Ducks are concerned with two things that the Sun Devils will try to do: 1) run the ball effectively to set up play-action; 2) throw deep, testing the Duck redshirt freshmen cornerbacks. The Ducks run four down linemen, two linebackers including plus an outside linebacker that will listed as strong safety in the game program and four defensive backs. To counter these concerns Oregon will rely on putting pressure on Rudy Carpenter by a speedy group of defensive ends including Matt Toeaina, Darius Sanders, Nick Reed, Dexter Manley and Ed Dickson. Expect to see Toeaina moved to tackle during the game to play along side Cole Linehan and a gimpy Jeremy Gibbs. Gibbs sprained an ankle against Oklahoma but will play. Oregon will also rotate David Faaeteete in at tackle to help counter the high temperatures of an afternoon game in Tempe. Free safety J.D. Nelson and rover Patrick Chung anchor Oregon's secondary. Both will help in pass coverage but it will be up to redshirt freshmen Wally Thurmond and Jairus Byrd to not let ASU wideouts to have a field day. Terrell Ward, who had been competing for a starting position was slowed by an ankle injury in fall camp, but will be available and part of the defensive rotation. The Ducks so far this season have held three pretty good offensive teams to 353.7 yards per game and 22.3 points. Linebacker Blair Phillips is having a tremendous year so far and leads the team in tackles with 31 (16 solo) and he, A.J. Tuitele and Kwame Aygeman (strong safety) are playmakers in stopping the run and putting pressure on the quarterback.
SPECIAL TEAMS: ASU's punting woes of 2005 are so far a thing of the past, thanks to solid play of JC transfer Jonathan Johnson who averages 41.3 yards a punt. Kicker Jesse Ainsworth is only 1-3 on field goals this season, with both misses being 40 or more yards. As always, the senior boots the majority of his kickoffs for touchbacks, but when he doesn't the Sun Devils have been somewhat shaky in their kickoff coverage. Senior Terry Richardson is arguably the Pac-10's best kick and punt returner, averaging 26.2 and 12.2 yards respectively in those categories. In 2005 he ran two punts back for touchdowns and is due for a big return this season. SPECIAL TEAMS: A special teams play won the game against Fresno State and also was part of the biggest controversy of the season. Place kicker Paul Martinez is 5-of-7 this season with a long of 48, and has scored a touchdown on a faked field goal. Punter Matt Dragich has not seen a lot of work because of the high powered Duck offense and has only punted eight times for a 38.9 yard average with one inside the 20 and no blocks. Jonathan Stewart ran two kickoffs return back for touchdowns last year, and has one return of over 50 yards this year.
ARIZONA STATE CAN WIN IF: The Sun Devils can come away victorious if their offense can exhibit true balance and ball control to frustrate the visitors who are unaccustomed to stifling heat, while keeping Dennis Dixon and a potent Oregon attack off the filed as much as possible. Needless to say that Carpenter has to drastically cut down on the number of turnovers from last week, and re-discover his timing and rhythm with his passing game targets. The defense will have to figure out early the secret to halting the spread offense and getting to Dixon before he passes or prepares to scramble down field. A quick pace offense usually makes it hard it to create turnovers, so the Sun Devils have to take advantage of every opportunity that comes their way. ASU's special teams will have to do a formidable job in giving the defense a long field to defend and the offense a short field to drive. If called upon, Ainsworth will have to nail a long range field goal, something he hasn't done in a while. OREGON CAN WIN IF: The Ducks will win if Dennis Dixon continues playing the way he has in the first three games of the season. Playing behind an offensive line that has started together for 15 straight games, Dixon is ideally suited for the spread offense because of his great mobility and his accurate, strong arm. Dixon's maturity has increased each game and has found a big-time receiver in Jaison Williams, who had nine catches for 177 yards and a touchdown against Oklahoma. If the pass game falters in any way, then the Ducks need only to look for Stewart to move the chains -- the Stewart-for-Heisman talk started after the Oklahoma game. Oregon's defense does not have to be overpowering but must be good enough to allow the offense to get back onto the field. Oregon's team speed on offense and defense is very good. Field position is less critical for the Duck offense as they have been able to make long field drives good for touchdowns however, turnovers can be very costly if the Duck defense has a short field to defend against an explosive ASU offense.
ASU OUTLOOK: "Answer the Scratch" is ASU's team motto, which translates to succeeding in light of adversity. Well, it is definitely time for the maroon and goal to live up to that saying. Some believe that last week's loss, albeit the only one in 2006, was the knockout punch for the Sun Devils. The team has to prove first and foremost to itself, that it can come back following what some perceive a demoralizing defeat. They have a golden opportunity at home to shake off a big loss against Cal, and beat a ranked opponent – something they have seldom done this decade. With a road game at USC looming large in a couple of weeks (ASU has a bye after the Oregon game), the maroon and gold realize the importance of winning this week's game and preventing what could be a nasty tailspin to open the first three games of Pac-10 play. OREGON OUTLOOK Validation is the word coming out of Eugene this week. The Ducks had the week off for a bye after the big Oklahoma victory but the controversy has left a very fowl taste in the Oregon's mouth. Duck Head Coach Mike Bellotti talked at length on Tuesday during his weekly media conference about how his team is disappointed that its accomplishments have been overshadowed by the officiating. Bellotti's solution for making things right? Go out and make a victim out of the opponent. The Ducks are still smarting over being snubbed by the BCS selection committee last winter when Notre Dame and Ohio State were chosen to play in the Fiesta Bowl. Add-in an upset loss to Oklahoma in Holiday Bowl plus the controversy surrounding this season's Oklahoma game and the Ducks are team on a mission. Oregon started the year out with great depth at all positions, but the depth has now been depleted as the season wears on. Still though, Oregon's offense is very potent and the defense has been more than adequate in the first three wins of the season.
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Hod Rabino is the publisher for DevilsDigest.com Steve Summers is the publisher for eDuck.com and Editor and Chief of eDuck Magazine.

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