Erickson Expects Devils to Bounce Back

If you were looking for the state of the Devils after Saturday's shocking loss to UNLV, ASU Head Coach Dennis Erickson answered that question early on in Monday's press conference. Sunday's team meeting was said to be quiet and subdued and the Sun Devils are certainly angry and ready to take out its frustration on the rest of the season.

"We met and looked at the tape of the game and they were pretty quiet yesterday, pretty subdued," stated Erickson, "I guess that's what happens when you get beat like that, but we also talked about the fact that we have nine football games left."

"I think they were very angry with themselves. I was very angry with myself and how I performed. The bottom line falls on me and I think they felt the same way about themselves as I felt about myself, which was pretty angry, probably as angry as some of our fans are with me."

The meeting didn't even start off by talking about the team's showdown with Georgia; it was more of a regrouping session, with the general state of the team as its subject.

"We didn't get specific on Georgia by any means," Erickson noted, "but we talked more in general about the rest of our season. Although we didn't play well - that's an understatement - there are a lot of things left to play for. Basically that was the conversation we had."

"Then we looked at the tape and tried to correct a lot of the mistakes we made in that game, and there were a number of them. I expect them to bounce back tomorrow, when they get back on the practice field and we present the scouting report for Georgia. We better be ready to go, because they are an awfully talented group."

ASU is putting their focus on the rest of the season and knows it has so much left to play for.

"Well, there is a whole season ahead of all of us," Erickson said point blank, "We have nine football games left and we have only played one conference game. We have eight conference games left, so there are a lot of things out there for everybody to play for in our league. That's how you have to approach it."

"For us, it's rebounding now and that is what we have to do. Rebound and get ready for the rest of the season. We just happen to be playing an awfully good team coming in here on Saturday."

Erickson's main concern from the UNLV game was the Rebels ability to run the ball at will against ASU in the second half, especially the fourth quarter.

"They were knocking us off the ball and we weren't tackling very well," Erickson acknowledged. "They converted some critical third downs and we just couldn't get off the field. They made some plays. They just kept making plays in all aspects of it."

"I looked at how they ran the ball against us in that game. I'm trying to get this game behind me, but I guess that's not going to happen. They just ran the football against us and that's the biggest thing that affected us Saturday night."

The Devils' veteran coach knows that if UNLV ran the ball well against his team, the very talented Georgia tailback Knowshon Moreno could inflict even more damage.

"Knowshon Moreno is a great runner, we've seen that, and Matthew Stafford is a great passer," Erickson commented. "They are probably as good as anyone in the country at their positions. In the three games that we have watched this year, and we've watched a bunch of their games last year, they make a lot of plays."

"Moreno is always very strong and very quick, very difficult to tackle and can take it to the house. I think probably, more than anything, he just breaks tackles," continued Erickson, "You have to have guys who are all surrounding him, or else he is going to break it. He made a run for a touchdown against South Carolina where they had him for about a three-yard loss and he ended up getting in the end zone."

Erickson continued on to explain that stopping Georgia wasn't easy because of their talented running game and the big arm potential of star quarterback Matthew Stafford.

"Well, I'm not sure where they have him ranked in the National Football League, but he has a huge arm, probably as strong of an arm as I've seen in a long time," said Erickson. "He makes some throws off his back foot that are spectacular. He has that kind of arm."

"Yeah, and the thing that is overlooked is their wideouts. They have some guys who can flat fly out there. Stafford obviously can throw a football, so you add all those things together, you're going to have to mix it up and take your chances. You have to try to stop the run. You can't let them run it down your throat, which they have been able to do against a lot of people."

"So, you have to be able to stop the run, and then you have to take your chances after that. Our goal is to try and go in there and try to stop the run, or slow it down I should say, and then go from there."

"They are a talented group," Erickson stated of the Bulldogs, "you can't win as many games as they do and not be talented. They have all kinds of skill and that is what you see down there in the South. You look at the other side of football, and it is pretty much the same way. They run eight defensive linemen in there, and you can't tell one from the next. They all run real well, and they have great speed on defense."

Erickson reiterated his main impression of Georgia was their overall team speed, something the SEC conference is well known for. This attribute on the defensive side is especially striking to ASU's head coach.

"They've been playing great on defense. Nobody moved the football at all, except South Carolina moved it a little bit," Erickson remarked. "They're ranked third in the country, so that is obviously a good football team. They have a lot of talent."

Yet with a top five opponent coming into Sun Devil Stadium, Erickson sees this as an opportunity to get a huge win for his program.

"It is an opportunity for us, of course. It's a game at home against one of the best teams in the country and probably the best conference around," said Erickson. "It's an opportunity anytime you get a chance to play a top five team at home. It's an opportunity for our program and it's on national TV. So, it is a huge opportunity for this football team and this program. There's no question about it."

A key against Georgia could possibly be the health of two of ASU's impact players. Linebacker Gerald Munns is expected to play after surgery repaired his broken pinky.

"He's going to be sore. We'll see how he is tomorrow. I would be surprised if he didn't play."

ASU will get help at linebacker regardless of Munns' status, as Morris Wooten will return after his suspension.

"Morris Wooten is back this week, which brings a little more physical presence to us defensively against the run, because he is bigger. So, he will play some and I think that will help us."

Erickson did admit that Keegan Herring returned too early from a hamstring injury, but this week off did help him. The senior will be questionable all week again.

"The trainer felt yesterday that he has a chance," Erickson stated. "We will see how he is in practice. He is a lot better than he was last week and he feels better than he did even before that, the week he played. That thing probably wasn't completely healed when he played against Stanford. We probably got him out there too soon, so we want to make sure it's right. I think he has a chance to be 100% the rest of the year and having last week off really helped him. We'll just have to see." Erickson knows that Herring is key to not only ASU's running game, but their offense as a whole.

"The thing that Keegan brings to our running game is that he can break the big one, hit the home run. We just didn't do that the other night. He brings that to us," said Erickson. "It makes a huge difference when he is in there. I think that Ryan Bass can bring that to us. We just have to start playing him a little more."

With or without Herring, ASU must move on to quickly reverse their fortunes. Erickson knows the character of his team and states that they won't let their season get away from them.

"They're the same group that was in here a week ago," Erickson noted. "When we met Sunday, it was the same group in there the Sunday before. I still think we are a good football team. We have a lot of things to correct and I said that before the season even started. They are very young in a lot of areas, so we have to continue to improve and get better. We need to improve in the offensive front and in some other places too.

"They are resilient and have great leadership and have worked very hard. I think their biggest thing is that, listening to them, they have spent a lot of time this summer preparing for the season, so they are not going to throw it out the window. I see a lot of resiliency and I expect them to come back and play well."

The Devils will return to practice tomorrow evening at 6:30 at Kajikawa Practice Field.

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