One last chance for Sun Devils

Coach Erickson and his squad have one last chance left to salvage what they can from a season that fell short of their expectations. After traveling to take on the UCLA Bruins this past weekend, one word can summarize why the Sun Devils again fell short.

"Turnovers," Coach Erickson said. "You can't turn the ball over like that and expect to win a game. We played awfully good on defense, that's kind of been the story of our season. When you turn it over like that, fourteen points on two turnovers and still in the ball game, then turn it over again and again then you just have no chance. If there is one thing, that's the thing."

A season full of injuries only continued against UCLA as the Sun Devils continue to adjust to fill vacant spots on the field. Luckily the depth of the maroon and gold roster allows for the reassignment of some players, as the Sun Devils head into their most anticipated game of the year.

"Thomas Altieri hurt his knee again so he won't play. Deveron Carr is out for the year, his shoulder game out twice in the game. He is getting an MRI today so we'll know exactly what it is. We'll start Brent Good at right guard and then move Gerhart to center. At corner, Terell Carr will start in his place. Then Josh Jordan will play quite a bit, we just have three guys so Josh will be the third."

Saturday the Sun Devils will matchup against their archrival, the Arizona Wildcats. The Wildcats, coming off a 44-41 loss to Oregon in double overtime, will present nothing less than their best. Coach Erickson acknowledges the talented Wildcats and is fully aware of what Saturday will consist of.

"Arizona is as good of football team as there is in this league," Erickson commented. "I mean, you look at them at all three phases of the game, they might be the best. When you take them on defense and what they do and what they've accomplished and then on offense what they've done since they made the quarterback change and then them on special teams with their punter. If you take all three phases then they're probably the most balanced team in our league.

"You take Oregon, offensively there's none like it as far as they're concerned. Oregon State is pretty balanced too; they run the football with great success. They are a football team that with a couple bounces here and there, outside of Iowa they probably could be undefeated; every game has been down to the wire. We've very aware of what Coach Stoops has done there, he's done a great job with that program and they've got some excellent football players, they're playing well as a team and they play well on offense, defense and teams. We understand what we're going into, believe me."

Erickson and his team are also aware that despite the disappointing loss, the Wildcats will come to Tempe with nothing less than their best.

"They're bowl eligible, and they're ready to go. They have two games left so. U of A, they'll play their best, that's just how rivalry games are. There is no wishing that that is not going to happen."

The longstanding rivalry will take place Saturday in Tempe, as the Sun Devils attempt to send their seniors out on a positive note and secure bragging rights for the next 364 days.

"In a state where there are two schools like this, you're either a Sun Devil or a Wildcat pretty much, so it's a typical traditional game," Erickson stated. "When you play that game, its bragging rights for a year and all those different things that happen, that's what it's all about. They are fun games to be involved in and people talk about them for 364 days and then the games then they talk about it for another 364 days."

Emotions run high throughout any rivalry game, and Coach Erickson expects no less from Saturday's competition yet once the first whistle is blown, it all comes down to playing the game of football.

"Traditional games are like that and there will be a lot of emotion on both sides," Erickson noted. "Normally once that ball is kicked off, you play football. Once that thing is in the air and you start playing offense and defense, the emotional aspect is there but it's not like the emotional aspect before the game, the day before or two or three days before."

Unable to secure bowl eligibility this season, this will be the last chance for the maroon and gold to secure a win. With the added pressure of the Territorial Cup, this week's preparation will be crucial in the stopping the Nick Foles and the Wildcats.

"You've got to tackle because they throw a lot of screens, that's a huge part of their offense," Erickson said. "He gets the ball out really quick; it's hard to put a lot of blitz pressure on him because of what they do. So when they get it out there we've got to get people to the ball. What gets lost sometimes when watching them play is that they get in two tight ends a lot. They run the football pretty well; they've got a good offensive line. It's a combination of both things, they've very efficient which you can see with their stats and all the points they've been scoring."

Similar to the last few weeks, Erickson has not yet determined which quarterback will take the field against Arizona. The ongoing musical chairs at quarterback is designed to give the maroon and gold the best chance of winning, yet it is still unclear which of the three quarterbacks will get the job done.

"Do I have one? I have three of them. I'll probably make a decision tomorrow. I think I mentioned yesterday that it's kind of the same scenario that it was last week with Danny and Sam. So that's where we're at right now."

Samson Szakacsy made his first start for the Sun Devils against UCLA and despite the loss, performed well for the most part. With two turnovers that cost Arizona State the game, Erickson knows that cannot be ignored when determining who will get the job this week.

"It's obviously the two mistakes he made were costly and that's obvious to him and all of us that were at the football game and watched it," Erickson admitted. "You can't just take those two out and say, okay other than those two things you played good but he did do some good things.

"He gives us some mobility, some ability to make some plays down the football field which he also did that in the football game. With our offensive front being as beat up as it is right now, with Altieri not playing, we're going to have to have somebody that can move a little bit back there, and he gives us that. He threw it pretty well when he had the opportunity so again other than those two mistakes."

If Erickson were to return to his original starter, Danny Sullivan, it will be the first Sullivan has taken the field since injuring his bicep in the game against USC. With confidence in his senior quarterback, Erickson will let time tell this week at practice who will give his team the best chance for a victory.

"We'll practice him some with the first group this week," Erickson stated. "We'll see what happens. Really his bicep has not been healthy until the end of last week so we'll see how he feels this week but he will get turns with the first group."

For many Sun Devils this will be the last time they wear Arizona State uniform. Struggling throughout the entire season and loosing 5 consecutive games is not the ideal situation for any team. Coach Erickson admits that this week is all about sending his seniors out on a positive note.

"I'm hurting pretty bad, that's what it's all about," Erickson admitted. "This team is all about the players and this team is all about the seniors that have been here since I've been here, for three years. You can go through them all and they are all guys who have contributed and obviously our goals were quite different at the beginning of the year than what we've accomplished but they've done a lot for this program and they've done a lot for me personally when I came in as far as supporting everything and working their rear ends off.

"It's been disappointing, I feel very bad for them. That's what this is about this week, it's about our seniors. Obviously its U of A, it's a big game for us like it is every year but is all about the seniors."


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