Looking to pull some tricks on Cal‏

After losing 33-14 and giving up 237 yards on the ground to Stanford, the Sun Devil defense sets their sights on Cal and star running back Jahvid Best. California leads the Pac-10 in both scoring at 35.1 points per game, and rushing at 216 yards per game, giving the Sun Devil defense its toughest test of the year so far.

Senior Linebacker Mike Nixon admits last weekend was tough, and that he and his teammates are looking forward to facing a tough Cal offense.

"I think we were a little shell shocked both at half-time and after the game," Nixon said. "We took a hard look at the film on Sunday and found out the corrections we need to make. Maybe we'll play a little harder than we did and we're looking forward to this Saturday and get another chance to prove ourselves."

Still, Nixon believes most of the mistakes they made last week can easily be corrected this week.

"Obviously they made the plays and we didn't," Nixon declared. "We had some good coverages that they just went up and caught the ball and we've got to find ways to make those plays and that's the different from staying on the field and keeping the drive alive and getting our offense a chance to score some points for us."

Stanford tailback Toby Gerhart ran all over ASU's defense, adding to his Pac-10 lead in rushing yards running for a 4.6 yard average and ending the game with 128 yards, giving him 994 on the season.

Cal's ground game though potent as well, attacks more on the edges with speed backs like Best where Stanford pounds the ball with Gerhart, but Nixon knows they must play smart.

"It's a different running style," Nixon mentioned. "I think Cal is leading the Pac-10 in rushing, but they get 90-yard runs, 50-yard runs. Where Stanford is just ‘hey we're gonna run it 50-times, and if we get 5, 6 yards a pop we're happy with it.' We know we've got to do a great job of gang tackling and try not to let those guys get on the outside this week."

One thing that has been surprising this season is the Sun Devils have not been able to build on their momentum from big games this year, losing to both Oregon State and Stanford after playing well against Georgia and Washington.

"For whatever reason after those good games we've taken a step back in the following week," Nixon pointed out. "Hopefully we can respond this week and the next couple weeks the way we did after that first step back against Oregon State.

"We've got a big chance on a big stage to respond against a very, very good Cal team. I believe they have two losses against the top two teams in the Pac-10 right now. Hopefully we can give them a third by playing our best game of the season."

Last week, and for the first time all year, the Sun Devil defense failed to record a sack, interception, or fumble. With a less than explosive offense, the defense must come up with big plays if they want to win against a good Cal team.

"Those three things are a recipe for disaster (lack of sacks and turnovers)," Nixon admitted. "If you don't get turnovers, you don't put the offense in great position to score points. We are making it hard on them. So as a defense we've got to get back to where we were early in the season, putting them in good field position, maybe scoring on defense, and really giving ourselves a chance to win."

Still, Nixon feels that the pressure is on the defense to make plays for the offense, and not the other way around.

"They're up there doing the best job they can," Nixon said of the offense, "and if they have to go 80-yards every single drive then chances of scoring for any offense are very slim. So if we can shorten that field and win that field position battle early in the game and give them a 40 to 50-yard field, the job is that much easier for them."

One player who has not helped the Devils in field position is freshman linebacker Vontaze Burfict, who has committed a plethora of fouls the past few games. Nixon and some of the older players have talked to the young guy about it, but said they just want him to continue to pay his game.

"The ones as far as maybe trash-talking we'll say something to him to calm him down a little, but the helmet-to-helmet one I think he had the last two weeks, that's just playing hard and that's flying to the ball," Nixon stated, "and that's the M.O. of our defense, so you just pat him on the back and just tell him to keep playing."

Saturday's game could provide some surprises for both teams as the ghouls will be out for Halloween, but Nixon says they don't have any tricks in store for Cal yet.

"No not yet, no tricks," Nixon said with a smile. "Hopefully we'll come up with something before the end of the week."


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