Team Keeps Loss in Perspective

After the initial disappointment of the Oregon loss has worn off, the Sun Devils realized they still have much to play for. A record of 8-1 clearly doesn't erase the possibilities for a special season. Overall, according to Head Coach Dennis Erickson, the resiliency the team has shown through out many of his victories continues as his squad isn't sulking following the first defeat of 2007.

"We're upbeat," said Erickson on the team's mood in their Sunday meetings. "We looked at the football game and evaluated ourselves, what happened, and so forth…Today, as soon as that was over, we're preparing for UCLA."

Undoubtedly, the maroon and gold had their chances to come away victorious against one of the best teams in the country. Both sides of the ball had their shining moments, but ultimately it wasn't enough to cancel out the struggles they had in Eugene. "Defensively, we didn't play very well for the first quarter and a half," Erickson stated. "After that we settled down and played pretty darn well against a very explosive football team. We had our chances on offense and didn't take advantage of them, or else it might have been a different football game. But it's over and done with. It's not like when we went in there and got beat up."

ASU's rushing attack did a fair job rushing the ball for 126 net yards, and the Sun Devil offense overall was impressive in their time of possession of 34:50 minutes. Nonetheless, their shortcomings moving the ball, via the ground or air, inside the 20-yard line contributed to a futility in scoring. The Sun Devil skipper pointed to a few of the reasons that were behind this deficiency.

"We've got to look at it. We've been very good down there most of the year. We weren't [against Oregon]," Erickson remarked. "Sometimes when you get in a stadium like that, where it's really noisy, you have a little trouble getting off the football like you need to. I'm not making excuses. The bottom line is that maybe we should have done some different things. I'm the first guy that evaluates myself every week. We just didn't get it done. We'll learn from it and hopefully it doesn't happen again."

Erickson noted that generally Oregon had more big plays on offense and defense than ASU did. One of those examples were the nine sacks the Sun Devils surrendered to the Ducks defense.

"There were three or four that were cover sacks where we couldn't get rid of the football and then we fumbled a snap," Erickson explained. "Everybody says you had nine sacks, the offensive line played awful, that's not the case. Yes, we missed some up front, but anytime you have sacks, it's a combination of things…that's happened to us before, and it happens to a lot of people throughout college football and in the National Football League. We just have to shore it up." "UCLA is awfully good up front and they bring it pretty good, so we're going to have to make sure we shore it up. We're going to see it all the time. That's just how it is, so we just have to adjust."

Quarterback Rudy Carpenter may have been shook up physically on Saturday, yet Erickson has no doubt that mentally he can be the leader the team needs right now in a time of relative adversity. "He's just got to be himself, like he has been," said Erickson. "We've got pretty good leadership on this team. We've got some really good seniors that have battled through a lot the last four or five years, probably not winning as much as they wanted, coaching change and all the different things that have happened to them."

"Rudy has been a good leader for us all year. He goes out and gets prepared. The bottom line is getting prepared to play and he spends a lot of time doing that. The players see that. This is a team that has prepared very well for each week and Rudy does that. He's a leader in that way and in how he practices. He doesn't miss a beat in practice. I don't see anything changing this week."

Another leader on the team, although exhibiting a more quiet style doing so, is linebacker Mike Nixon who had a career-high in a game 12 tackles against Oregon. Erickson admitted that the one time baseball player has been a pleasant surprise. "He's a veteran. Anybody that's played in the minor leagues in baseball enjoys flying much more than buses," Erickson remarked. "He's mature. He's been around. He brings a real quiet leadership to our football team. He's playing very well. He's very smart, understands what's going on and plays every different position at linebacker. He's brought a lot and made a lot of plays, but probably more than anything is his leadership ability, how smart he is and how he understands the game."

ASU's next opponent UCLA may seemingly look as they're currently in a serious downslide suffering two consecutive losses. However, Erickson isn't fooled by their struggles and expects a stiff test in the Rose Bowl this weekend. "All I can evaluate is personnel and they've got good players," he said. "They've had some big wins and they've had some losses. That's just the nature of it. They do a good job coaching. They've got a lot of talent. They can run the football with a great deal of success. They're very similar to us in a lot of ways."

No one has been bitten more by the injury bug in the Pac-10, especially at quarterback, than UCLA. The Bruins have played four different quarterbacks this season, and are likely to have an inexperienced or battered signal caller when they face ASU. Nonetheless, Erickson chose to downplay that factor.

"The number one thing UCLA is going to do, regardless of who their quarterback is, is they are going to run the football," he said. "They've got a really good offensive line, they've got some skill outside and they're going to run the football. That's what we've got to prepare for. You can't really prepare for different quarterbacks. You just have to prepare, because they've done the same thing with them, and that's run the football. So we don't know who is going to be the quarterback, to be very honest with you. It could be one of two or different three guys, so we just have to prepare for the offense itself."

A victory against UCLA can help make up the ground lost in the polls, and keep alive many of the goals that are still in reach for the Sun Devils. Erickson noted that this fact is repeatedly being mentioned to the squad.

"We're where we're at because we've played our way into it. So it's pretty obvious to our football team how important each game is for us to have an opportunity to have a successful year," Erickson stated. "We've got UCLA this week. Their back is against the wall like ours, as far as having an opportunity to compete for the Pac-10 championship and to do good things with this season. Our players know that. They know what they've got to do and that's just simply to win one game at a time."

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