Erickson prepares for tough Pac-10 opener

After a narrow loss to Georgia on Saturday, Head Coach Dennis Erickson and the Sun Devils are taking the defeat as a learning experience as they prepare to face their first Pac-10 opponent, the Oregon State Beavers. Last year the Sun Devils were defeated 27-25 in Corvallis, and Coach Erickson expects to see a similar Oregon State team as last year, a consistent and well prepared unit.

"They have guys in there program that fit into what they want to do, they play their rear ends off, they believe in what they're doing," Coach Erickson recalled. "You watch them every year, whether they lose two games or win five in a row, they're very steady in their program so they can win the next eight games in a row, who knows they've done it before. They're talented, they have the Rogers brothers, and they are as good as anybody in our league at their position. We have our hands full and our players know that."

Looking back to the Georgia game, Erickson commented that the disappointing defeat by the Bulldogs could not be blamed on a single aspect of the game but came down to the Sun Devils struggling to make crucial plays.

"We lost, that's the bottom line as far as I'm concerned and that's the bottom line as far as our team is concerned, I mean we lost," Coach Erickson said about Saturday's competition. "We had a chance to win that football game and we didn't go down there with the idea to do anything but win that football game and we didn't do it at the end when we had the opportunity to do it. I thought our guys played extremely hard, they have pretty much all year and defensively as you know we played good but we made some mistakes on defense too, it wasn't totally mistake free on defense. "

The Arizona State defensive squad has been praised for their talent and ability to control games. During Saturday's contest the Sun Devils won the turnover battle against the Bulldogs, but unfortunately could not translate that into a win.

"Normally when you win that battle by two you win, or you put yourself in a position to win and we did," Erickson commented. "I go back to making plays, we didn't do it. Is it frustrating? Yeah it's frustrating for our team and players but it's over and done with. We just have to go on and learn from it."

Offensively, Coach Erickson and his team have been able to hold onto the ball for the most part.

"Our backs are hanging on to the ball pretty good, it's amazing we haven't had a fumble and that's unheard of," Coach Erickson noted. "We ran it quite good. Throwing the one pick, that ball just went out of his hands and there was pressure and a combination of things but a lot of it is just the backs keeping hold of the ball and Danny making good decisions, throwing the ball away and not forcing the ball in there."

The team had to face the Georgia Bulldogs in unfavorable conditions, consistent rain throughout the game resulting in wet terrain for the players. Although the Sun Devils do not attribute the loss to the weather conditions, the atmosphere certainly played a role. The wide receiver group also struggled throughout the game to haul in passes and make crucial plays when necessary, similar to the Idaho State contest.

"We're not throwing like we want to, I'm not trying to make any excuses but it was a little wet," Erickson admitted. "Unless you were down on the field you wouldn't know but up until then we'd been throwing it pretty good. We've got to become accountable and run our routes, catch the ball, throw it, protect it. It's not just one particular thing. It's like I told my players, we have to practice the passing game well during the week to execute it on Saturday so we have to continue to do it."

Now that the team is back from Athens and preparing for their next opponent, the Sun Devils will focus on what their season is all about, competing for a Pac-10 championship.

"The nine-game run here isn't going to be very easy," Erickson admitted. "As far as I'm concerned that game is behind us, we learned something from it but it makes no difference now. We have to play Oregon State and start the Pac-10 season, that's what it's all about."

Winning a Pac-10 championship is a goal that the ASU coach and his players strive to achieve each season. Saturday marks the first opportunity the Sun Devils will have to make their dream a reality.

"Our players know what it's all about," Erickson stated. "They know that our goal every year is to compete for the Pac-10 championship, that's what we're here for, that's what it's all about for us. Obviously we'd love to win a game like we had Saturday but our goal every year is to win a Pac-10 championship and to compete for it so now it's just started.

"It's a new season as far as we're concerned and we're playing an awfully good football team. Every week as you can see now in this Pac-10 as you can see from the games that have been played, I mean, watch out, who knows what is going to happen so you better be prepared."

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