Devils ground warhawks

Focused on the current opponent, rather than looking ahead to Georgia, the Sun Devils learned their lesson from last year's UNLV game, as they handily beat Louisiana-Monroe 38-14. It wasn't a perfect performance by any means, yet there were certainly some positives to take away from Saturday's night home contest along with some areas that need to be promptly addressed.

"It was a win, that's the bottom line," said Arizona State Head Coach Dennis Erickson. "I thought we played well at times and didn't play well at times. We won the football game, and there was a time last year when we lost this kind of football game. To me, that's the most important thing.

"I thought defensively we played pretty well most of the football game. We got some turnovers and we did not turn the ball over, so that's two games without turning the ball over, plus we're creating turnovers. Obviously that's the difference in the game. Louisiana-Monroe is not a bad football team. You're never happy. I'm never happy, but we won and that's just how it is. I think we have a tougher opponent next week."

The game couldn't have started better for the Sun Devils (2-0). Omar Bolden returned his first ever kickoff for a touchdown, scampering down the sidelines for 89 yards. After a three and out by the Warhawks (1-2), Danny Sullivan goes 6-7 for 63 yards in a drive that culminated with a one-yard touchdown by Dimitri Nance.

"He ran real well," said Erickson of Nance who had 82 yards on 17 carries. "He protected real well. He broke a lot of tackles. I thought all three backs that played, played pretty darn well. The thing about Dimitri is he's not going to make very many mistakes, and he's going to protect against the blitz. They blitzed us a lot. I thought he did a good job protecting."

In the air Sullivan had a career high 220 yards as he completed 19-31 attempts, and added a rushing touchdown. His lone touchdown pass resulted in a Chris McGaha trademark circus catch that made ESPN's SportsCenter top 10 plays of the day.

Erickson was pleasantly surprised of that feat and added that "the only time I see us on SportsCenter is last year's Georgia game, or some other game where we got our rear end beat."

Overall, the ASU wideouts did a much better securing the passes thrown to them, with Kyle Williams leading the charge hauling a career high eight catches for a personal best 129 yards.

"All of our receivers, for the most part, caught the ball extremely well," Erickson stated. "I thought Danny threw it pretty well. We were able to do some good things. After two weeks, which seems like a month ago when we played Idaho State, I thought those receivers caught the football very well and did a good job.

"I knew Kyle was going to step up. He was very disappointed in how he played against Idaho State where he dropped some balls. He made some huge plays for us."

The 12 penalties for 122 yards is one of the highest tally of infractions in recent years for the maroon and gold, and an area which obviously caught the attention of the Sun Devil skipper.

"That's ridiculous," Erickson acknowledged. "I'll have to look at the tape tomorrow and see where they all were, how they were created and all that stuff, but that's disappointing. In a close football game when you have those kinds of penalties, that's when you can get beat."

On a brighter note, the ASU special teams, aside from Bolden's feat, gave a solid all-around effort. Walk-on kicker Bobby Wenzig, who wasn't planning to be at Saturday's contest, had to be tracked down on Friday to fill in for the injured Thomas Weber who had a hip flexor and couldn't kick in Thursday's practice. Wenzig made good on all five PAT's, as well as on a 24-yarder.

"I'm glad he wasn't at home," said Erickson of the true freshman kicker who hails from San Diego. "We would have had a little problem getting up here. Hopefully Thomas will heal up and be ready for next week, but Bobby did a great job. Our backup was [Mike] Nixon. He kicked some pretty good ones yesterday in practice. You don't want to make a living with him, but he could get us through a game. He's pretty athletic."

Not to be outdone, punter Trevor Hankins, who is groomed to relieve Weber from his punting duties, had an outstanding game averaging a career high 46.2 yards on five punts, including a long one of 57 yards.

Defensively, while keeping Louisiana-Monroe at bay for most of the contest, the hosts surrendered 136 yards on the ground, and 262 total yards of offense. Furthermore, the Devils allowed a 90-yard scoring drive later in the fourth quarter recording the last points of the game.

Mike Nixon and Brandon Magee tied for the team lead at six tackles, but it was fellow linebacker Travis Goethel who stood out the most with a fumble recovery and an interception that would gone for a touchdown if it wasn't for Nixon accidently bumping into to him and preventing a defensive score. A pick by Bolden on the one-yard line kept ULM out of the end zone earlier in the game.

What a difference a year makes. A stunning loss to UNLV not only did in ASU for the Georgia game, but also in effect doomed the rest of the 2008 season. Beating an opponent of UNLV's caliber, in Louisiana-Monroe, allows the Sun Devils to come into this difficult road game with a better mindset than last year.

"That'll be a great experience for our players to go down to the South and play," Erickson said. "It's really special. I know our players are excited about getting down there."

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