Fanaika Excited for Showdown with Cal

Senior offensive guard Paul Fanaika has heard all the criticisms about the Arizona State front five, but the veteran leader is confident that this team and positional group will find success the rest of the season.

Questions and doubts have been abundant ever since the Sun Devils suffered back-to-back home losses in their last two games but this past weekend the players got a much-needed week off.

"Bye weeks are good. One, you get the rest. Rest is important but at the same time you have to get work done, which is exactly what we did," stated Fanaika. "We came out last week and grinded for a couple of days. We went hard while we were out here. You have to get a lot from your time out here because the key thing is rest. When we're here, we have to maximize the time we have."

A healthy portion of practice last week was dedicated to improving the run game, an area that Sun Devils' head coach Dennis Erickson has been harping on for the last couple of weeks now. Erickson has repeatedly affirmed that his team will run the ball more in the future, an idea that is appealing to Fanaika.

"You always like to run the ball and running the ball is all about a mentality that you have to have as an offensive lineman," said Fanaika. "When coach says ‘We're going to run the ball,' he's letting us know that it's on us. Everybody has to block, but we have to get guys moved up front."

While the rushing game has struggled the area that everyone was concerned the most with on the offensive line, pass protection, has improved. Sack numbers are down considerably from last year and the unit has done a better job keeping defenders off quarterback Rudy Carpenter.

"Every offensive line worries about the sack count," admitted Fanaika. "Everybody has to block, running backs, tight ends but (criticism) mostly get put on offensive linemen. We just took the (criticism) personally and we came out worked hard, simplified our protection a little bit but most importantly we just made improvements from spring ball to camp, from camp to the season."

Being a senior this is Fanaika's last chance at winning the Pac-10 outright and making it to the Rose Bowl. The prodigious offensive lineman was not afraid to admit that the two losses have increased his, and the team's, sense of urgency.

"You're not expecting to lose two games but there is nothing we can do about it now other than learn from them and build from the experience," remarked Fanaika. "Losing two is tough, but at the same time we have to realize that we can't dwell on those two losses. We have to learn from them but most importantly we have to move on and handle the Pac-10 because we still have a lot of Pac-10 games coming up."

This weekend the Sun Devils will square off with the Cal Golden Bears in Berkeley, two teams fighting respect not only amongst the Pac-10, but on the national scene as well. Many believe this to be a do or die situation, yet the guard doesn't agree with that notion.

"Their front seven is good. It's a Pac-10 game and everyone comes to play in the Pac-10, it doesn't matter who you're playing," Observed Fanaika. "We don't like to think like (this is a make or break game). We just have to go out there and play to win in every game. We can't think about what is going to happen if we lose. We just have to worry about winning."

Although the Bay Area is not as close to Tempe as Los Angeles several Sun Devils hail from Northern California, Fanaika being one of those players. The senior talked about his excitement for getting to play in front of friends and family who usually do not get a chance to watch him live.

"Every game is important to me but this one means a little bit more," he noted. "It'll be good to go back home and show my family and friends what I've been working on these last few years."

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