Monday morning meanderings

YOU CAN SAFELY say the Cougar offense has now seen it all. Arizona's defense threw the kitchen sink at Jason Gesser & Co. on Saturday. Blitzing schemes of all stripe, an eight-man zone, man-to-man coverage, four-men fronts, three-men fronts and five-men fronts if count a 'backer who basically lines up as a stand-up end. You name it.

The Cougars sputtered against it all but still managed to rack up 424 total yards --- 67 of them coming on a picturesque, 10-play drive that gave them the lead for good at 14-13 late in the third period when Gesser connected with dodging Devard Darling for a 16-yard scoring aerial.

But as much as Arizona deserves credit for keeping the Cougar O off balance, the real fly in the ointment appeared to be the Cougars themselves. Pass routes too often were a step off, throws a fraction this way or that, and penalties as untimely as ever.

Mike Price said that practices leading up to the game were crisp.

But that two-week layoff from real-life game conditions seemed to take its toll. Most glaring was the Cougars' production in the red-zone. While already sporting one of the worst efficiency rates in the Pac-10 coming into Tucson, the Cougs took it down yet another notch against the Wildcats with two missed field goals and a failed fourth-down conversion inside the 20.

Price says the Cougars will go back to the drawing board once again this week to get that part of their game ironed out before Arizona State comes to town for a game that has huge implications for the Rose Bowl.

THE SUN DEVILS, 7-2 overall and 4-0 in the conference, entered the top 25 last week for the first time in three years. This week they're at No. 16 in the AP poll, the Cougars at No. 8.

The Devils' two losses came at Nebraska in the season opener, 48-10, and at home earlier this month against North Carolina --- a 38-35 affair in which ASU kicker Mike Barth missed four field goal tries.

ASU leads the Pac-10 in sacks, with 40, (WSU, the conference leader last season, is second, with 32) and the undisputed master of the sack is ASU junior end Terrell Suggs. With 4 1/2 against the Huskies over the weekend, he now has a nation-leading 17 1/2 for the year. He's also just two sacks from breaking the ASU single-season record set by Al Harris in ASU's inaugural season in the Pac-10 (1978).

ABC Sports says will televise this Saturday's game against Arizona State. Kickoff will be at 12:30 p.m, with CougGrad Keith Jackson on the call.

The Cougars are now 17-3 over the last two seasons --- tying them with Oregon and Texas for the third-best record in that time frame behind Miami and Oklahoma. With five straight Ws, the Cougs have the longest winning streak in the Pac-10.

Three front-line Cougars were dinged at Tucson, but all are expected to be ready for this Saturday's showdown with Arizona State: safety Erik Coleman (shoulder), receiver Mike Bush (ankle), and guard Phil Locker (ankle). In addition, defensive backups Aaron Joseph (concussion) and Wendell Smith (ankle) should be ready to go. Two standouts offensive linemen, Josh Parrish (broken leg) and Sam Lightbody (neck stinger) are likely to be back for ASU. And lnebacker Al Genatone (high ankle sprain) has been upgraded to questionable.

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