Sullivan looks ahead to Pac-10 schedule

By his own admission, the narrow loss to Georgia was tough to swallow for Danny Sullivan. At the same time the ASU quarterback feels that the lessons learned from this game have to be implemented this week as the Sun Devils play nine straight weeks of Pac-10 contests starting with a home game versus Oregon State.

"I'd say I'm fine," Sullivan said of his performance in the 2009 season. "After the first two games and I played terrible on Saturday. The first half was horrendous but the second half I played a lot better and it's just a learning experience right now.

"I take a lot of positives out of Saturday, it's tough to swallow that's for sure. I feel terrible that our defense played so well and we didn't make any plays in the end but I take a learning experience going into Pac-10. Our number one goal is the Pac-10 championship and it was a nonconference game and if anything you learn from it and get ready for the Pac-10 and get ready for Oregon State."

The senior felt that he was able to bounce back from a subpar first half against Georgia, but in the second stanza lack of offensive execution prevented the Sun Devils from scoring more points than they did.

"There were a couple throws here and there that I threw away on purpose," Sullivan stated, "avoiding the bad play, just controlling field position and I take that as a positive for sure because it is a game of field position and when a close game happens like that, you have to make sure you set yourself up with the turnover, interceptions are terrible at that time. I was careful with the ball in the second half and that's good."

Sullivan noted that he did wake up early on Sunday morning to see what the college football pundits had to say concerning his team's performance. Despite what has been said, the signal caller is able to put it all in perspective.

"You have to be proud of the way these guys compete," Sullivan remarked, "and I know going everyday with these guys can be fun the rest of the way. It's one game, that's all it is. We'll learn from it and get ready for Oregon State."

Thus far ASU has been outscoring its opponents by nearly 40 points in the third quarter, and Sullivan naturally credits effective halftime adjustments when explaining that statistic. However, he would obviously like to see better consistency on his side of the ball throughout each game.

"I have to do a better job of making plays early and helping my confidence grow," Sullivan acknowledged. "Ever since Coach got here, we've always been good in the second half and that's one thing we take from that. Our second half can be pretty good if we just clean up some stuff in the first quarter, I think we're going to be more than alright."

While the quarterback admitted that wet conditions in the first half made his shoes feel "about 30 pounds each" he said that the second half was affected by weather. "We started to get a little rain coming down in the 4th quarter," Sullivan said, "but it wasn't too bad like the flash flood we had for warm-ups."

The absence of the mental mistakes by Sullivan is due to the fact that he is been following his instructions to manage the game.

"The first half was tough, the conditions were tough" Sullivan claimed. "It's not an excuse but that ball was about 20 pounds it felt like, and the hand was wet but you have to deal with those conditions. Joe Cox had to deal with it and he did alright so that's the one thing that jumps out in my mind.

"Again, fighting the adversity and just keep gutting it out in the second half was my main key. I told myself at halftime, ‘pick it up and we will be alright' and we got ourselves in a winnable situation. Down the stretch we didn't do a good job of making the throws that I needed to and there were a couple of drops but it happens. It just sucks that it happened during that part of the game."

A talented running back can greatly aid a quarterback and the passing attack. Sullivan was appreciative of tailback Dimitri Nance who had 92 yards rushing and 47 yards receiving on Saturday, including a touchdown. His performance also allows Sullivan not to be tempted to take extra risks in the passing game.

"Dimitri is doing a great job of holding onto the ball," Sullivan said. "Our offensive line is doing a great job giving him running lanes and I think that's the big key right there. There aren't guys in the hole causing things to bottle up in there and the one thing that I'm doing is, if a guy is not there and I don't have anything there, then I'm throwing it away.

"I'm not trying to force anything and that's why I only have the one interception. I'm happy with where I'm at right now because of that deal. I could have gone in and thrown a bunch of interceptions in the first three games and put our team in a hole but there have been cases where I've thrown the ball way and we've continued because of that and I'm happy with that. One turnover through three games is pretty good."

The Sun Devils' defensive performance against the Bulldogs, giving up just two field goals in the second half, is something that is very encouraging to Sullivan as he and his teammates begin their league portion of the 2009 campaign.

"It's huge it gives us a lot more confidence especially in the game Saturday," Sullivan said. "They got the fumble that was recovered by Jarrell and we went in and scored. It gave us a lot of confidence and it got them back out there ready to make another play and look what happened, Jarrell gets the pick and returns it for a touchdown.

"The confidence in our offense is very high but it's even higher when the defense makes us a play. It's our job to get the ball in the end zone or at least get points and I think we've done a great job of that so far. I don't know what our red zone percentage is but I know it has to be pretty good. Our goal has always been, if you get points we'll be alright, don't go out with a zero."

Even with the stellar play of the defense thus far, Sullivan knows that he and the ASU offense have to put in their fair share in the team's overall effort.

"We still need to put up points," Sullivan admitted. "We still have to take advantage of the turnovers because who knows how long can the defense last. If they give up 28, we've got to be ready to score 31. We have to keep preparing ourselves, we've got to score points and get ready to go take advantage of everything you have and make sure you're keeping the defense healthy."

Sullivan stated that he didn't have an answer to why his receivers dropped a large number of passes throughout the first three games. He does know that focus obviously comes into play, and has encouraged the receivers to not get down on themselves with so much football yet to be played this season.

"We're in it together that's why we're a team," Sullivan said. "We aren't a bunch of individuals here and that's the camaraderie that we have this year. We lost, oh well. We're going to fix our mistakes, get ready for Oregon State and we're in it together. This is the best, close knit group I've been around in four years and we're very determined group and ready to go."

The Sun Devil signal caller was very appreciative of the way his offensive line performed, especially in light of the numerous injuries that the group was hit with in Athens.

"Thomas Altieri with his knee," Sullivan described, "Jon Hargis with his shoulder like three times, he just popped it back in. I saw him laying there with his shoulder hanging and I said, ‘pop that back in please'. Thomas went down and we had to go with Shawn at left, Brent Good at left guard, Andrew Sampson at center, Mike Marcisz at right guard and Tom Njunge at right tackle.

"I've talked about having and being confident in all of those guys, whoever had to jump in but I wasn't expecting to have three guys all at once in there. I don't think they were expecting that either because Sampson has been between center and guard and all over the place. Those guys will be alright, they will be prepared for whatever comes and I think we're going to be okay. They're a tough group and they want to prove a lot of people wrong. They're very confident in what they can do now and it's got to carry into the next nine weeks."

Sullivan added that the 92,000 plus fans in attendance didn't adversely affect the snap timing between him and center Thomas Altieri.

"It was right on the money every time," Sullivan commented. "I think Thomas had one of his best career games on Saturday. He is going to ride that wave just like the whole offensive line will and their confidence will be good and I'll make sure I do my part and get ready for Saturday to keep building this team's confidence.

"It's a loud stadium; it's the loudest I've ever been in. I'm sure they got louder as the rain kept coming down too. It was a great experience for our team, going into the Pac-10, especially when we have games on the road in hostile environments this year."

The defeat loss to UNLV in 2008, before the lion share of Pac-10 play took place that year naturally impacted the maroon and gold the rest of that season. The 20-17 loss to Georgia shouldn't have the same affect according to Sullivan.

"We played well for the first three games," Sullivan explained. "Last year was tough when we lost to a team that we should have beat and this year we took advantage of that and lost a heartbreak against a really good team. I think our level of confidence going into the Pac-10 is way better and it's just a matter of myself, getting ready to go for Pac-10."

Sullivan noted that the Oregon State defense has a lot different players he hasn't seen before. Nonetheless, even for a unit that lost eight starters from last season the quarterback feels that there is some talent returning back.

"They've got Keaton Kristick who is a pretty good linebacker outside, he has been there and he's very fast, very determined," Sullivan said. "Tim Clark out at corner, he is a senior he's been around and very experienced. Besides that, they're very young and inexperienced and it's going to be interesting to see how they come out and play in this game. They're very hungry. They don't want to go 2-3 and I think Coach Riley is going to do a great job getting those guys ready because it's a huge game for them and a huge game for us to start off the Pac-10."

Sullivan noted that the flight back from Georgia was a very long and sleepless trip. Yet, he and his teammates are proud of the efforts and are taking it all in stride. He and his teammates undoubtedly now have the confidence and a higher sense of intensity as their Pac-10 portion of the season commences this weekend.

"Last week was a good test for us because it let us know, how high can we get for a game, how amped up we can get for a game and I think we're going to be very excited to go on Saturday," Sullivan said. "We're going to play with a lot of passion, we're going to fix our mistakes and be ready to go. It's just another game though, it's no different, it may be the start of the Pac-10 but you just have to take it like another game and worry about yourselves and fix your mistakes and be ready to go.

"It's going to set up for an exciting nine weeks here. Usually you get about three teams that really have a legit chance to go into the Pac-10 but you're looking at it now and every team is a player. Any team can go out and win the Pac-10 right now and I think that's good, it's going to set up for some tough competition the next couple weeks and we've got to be ready to go, if we get ourselves ahead we will be alright."

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