Erickson looks for strong finish

With two games left in the season the pressure is on the Sun Devils to secure back to back wins which will ensure a 6-6 record. Despite four consecutive losses, and still uncertain of which quarterback will take the field this Saturday, Coach Dennis Erickson remains positive that his team will be ready for the challenge.

"It's like any team that has lost four in a row," Erickson stated regarding the state of his team. "It hasn't been a very fun road for us. We've got a chance to get to 6-6, get to bowl eligible, that's what we're shooting at right now and obviously UCLA is the first one and obviously the next week takes care of itself. That's what the attitude is; right now we just want to get a win. When you lose four in a row it's not easy sailing for football teams and coaches and fans and everything and again, losing a couple close ones.

"We had an opportunity up there in Oregon we just didn't start very well on the road and they came out like they had been all year and then we got it to 31-21, where we came back and had a chance but they took it right down. I expect our team to come out like they have all year and get ready to play, starting tomorrow."

Erickson seems to be back at square one with his quarterback situation, yet this time injuries are the main issue at hand. Senior Danny Sullivan was out last week with a bicep injury and true freshman Brock Osweiler took a hard hit on his forearm against the Ducks, leaving Samson Szakacsy as the only quarterback standing during Saturday's matchup.

"I'm not sure yet," Erickson commented on the quarterback situation. "I'm not sure how healthy Danny or Brock are. I don't know for sure where they're at. We gave them yesterday off because we didn't get home until about six in the morning. According to the trainer, they both should be okay so we'll just wait and see. Obviously with some of the things Samson did in that game, he gives you some different things athletically than the other two give you. We'll have to see how his elbow is because when he throws for a long period of time, it bothers him. I won't know until tomorrow for sure."

Szakacsy, who has been limited the entire season because of a reoccurring elbow injury, entered the game and got the Devils back in the game, completing 13 of 22 passes, for 113 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed for a score.

"His arm is not as strong as it was last spring but it's getting there," Erickson said. "I think he has a pretty good chance of getting back to full strength by spring football, they are doing some different things with the doctors. The thing about him is that he is very accurate and he made some good throws that game. We'll just wait and see, I haven't decided what we're going to do yet."

Whichever quarterback takes the field as the Sun Devils travel to southern California to take on UCLA, they will have to face an intense defense, much like their own. Some say that the Bruins are a mirror image of the maroon and gold, yet Coach Erickson believes that is simply due to the similarity in defensive units.

"Defensively, they are really, extremely good," Erickson admitted. "They have one of the best defensive tackles; Brian Price is probably one of the better defensive tackles in the country. They are very good on defense, Reggie Carter is a great player, they have a great secondary and they've played very well against everybody on defense.

"Now that Prince is starting to get a feel of things since he is back, they are starting to throw the ball and score some points, which makes them, double effective. I wouldn't stay mirror image, I think the image is that we both have darn good defenses but they're doing pretty well with Prince in there. So, they've got some skill outside, Rosario is playing very well for them. I guess people say that because of the defense more than anything."

As the end of the season approaches, injuries have taken their toll on the Sun Devils. Collectively the team has had to adjust many times this season to fill vacant spots when players have to leave the field. This week was no different for the team, who returned from Eugene with a new list of injuries.

"We have to move somebody to backup at middle linebacker since Munns is gone," Erickson began. (Travis) Goethel played in there in the spring so we'll move him in there as a backup in that situation. The tight end situation with Danny Knapp out could create some problems. Jovon Williams has been hurt a little bit too; he didn't play in the second half. It kind of limits what you do with the two or three tight end things that you do. We don't know until we see them.

"Hustad is out, he is having an MRI today, it looks like his kneecap dislocated so he is out for the rest of the near. We've dealt with that one, Njunje will just move to right tackle and everything else will be pretty much the same. I expect Josh Jordan who really hasn't been healthy, to come back and help our depth at corner. He was on the trip but he couldn't have played because of an ankle so LeQuan (Lewis) was our third corner. Actually our two corners played pretty well in that game; Deveron (Carr) is getting better all the time."

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