|Washington (0-4, 1-6) at Arizona State (1-3, 3-4)|
Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, AZ
Saturday, October 29 - 3:35 PM (PST) - No TV
Series All-time: Washington leads, 15-9
Last Meeting: October 26, 2002 – at ASU 27, Washington 16
Line: ASU by 17
"Can anybody remember when the times were not hard and VICTORIES not scarce?" - Ralph Waldo Emerson ... mostly.
After a 9-3 season in 2004 and a surprise win over Purdue in the Sun Bowl, Arizona State followers looked upon 2005 as the stamp of legitimacy as a program on a solid foundation. A Top-20 pre-season ranking was theirs, with expectations of a top-three PAC-10 finish. And the Sun Devils began in earnest, blitzing through the 50-point barrier twice in three weeks, sandwiching two romps around a last-second loss to highly-regarded LSU. They scored four touchdowns in five minutes while routing the Beavers in Corvallis. National TV showed them off in a huge way, taking it to top-ranked USC during a wonderfully executed first half in the afternoon heat of Tempe.
Then the Trojans went and hung a 35-7 second half on them.
And the ASU cauldron has been as dry as the Sonora desert ever since.
"We're going to have to reassess everything," fifth-year head coach Dirk Koetter lamented to the gathered press immediately after their latest humbling, a 45-35 loss to resurgent Stanford last Saturday in Palo Alto. "The last two games we haven't shown up with that same passion to play. That's on the leadership of the team and the head coach."
"I'm totally at a loss."
Later, after having Sunday to practice and another day to reflect, Koetter seems a wee less beleaguered, but remains in a head-scratching state. "Losing games is not fun", he said. "And losing games when you don't play like you're capable of is certainly not fun."
"We've lost our ‘mojo' right now. I wish there was a magic wand I could wave for us to get it back."
Well as it should happen, abracadabra - in comes the Huskies, losers of 12 straight conference games, 10 straight road games, and 16 of 18 overall. It seems the perfect potion for a team now looking to reach .500 after having such lofty expectations. "As far as Washington goes," said Koetter, "they've played a tough schedule like us. They're hungry for a win. But right now, we have to worry only about righting our own ship."
"It's our team and we dug ourselves into this. We have to dig ourselves out."
By the waving of a wand.
Happy Halloween to one and all.
|ARIZONA STATE OFFENSE|
TEAM STATS: 38.3 points, 520.0 yards (2nd PAC-10, 147.3 rush, 372.7 pass) 27-32 in Red Zone offense (.844, 3rd PAC-10, 24 TDs) RUSHING: Keegan Herring 90-572-5 TD (6.1), long 67 Rudy Burgess 72-316-3 TD (4.4), long 38 PASSING: Sam Keller 155-264-9 (.587), 2165 yards, 20 TD RECEIVING: Derek Hagan 46-715-6 TD (15.5), long 45 Rudy Burgess 33-325-4 TD (9.8), long 49 Moey Mutz 19-285-1 TD (15.0), long 38
Quarterback Sam Keller looked like a budding Heisman candidate in September. Beginning with his debut in the 2004 Sun Bowl against Purdue, the junior threw for 1,813 yards and 19 TDs in his first five starts – at one point, going 131 straight passes without an interception. However, the co-captain took a beating in ASU's win at Oregon State, following on with a five interception nightmare versus USC. Keller had noticeable problems with a sprained throwing thumb against the Cardinal, tossing for just 98 yards in two-plus quarters before exiting. His replacement, RS-freshman Rudy Carpenter, came in and threw for 304 yards and three scores. However, Carpenter's first offering resulted in a Cardinal interception and touchdown. Provided that his thumb is OK, Koetter insists that Keller is still the starter.
The Huskies haven't seen Derek Hagan since his freshman year. It won't take long for them to reacquaint - Hagan has caught a pass in 36 straight games, and the 6-2 vocal leader has 31 receptions in his last four games. Senior Moey Mutz and junior speedster Terry Richardson have combined for 37 receptions - seventeen different Sun Devils have at least one pass reception. TE Zach Miller was a freshman All-American a year ago, and continues to be a force – Miller already ranks fourth among ASU tight ends in career receptions.
True freshman tailback Keegan Herring, a state of Arizona 100-meter champion from Peoria, ran for 134 yards in his debut against Temple, then topped that with a 197-yard, two-TD effort versus Northwestern. The 5-10 speedster is 227 yards short of the ASU freshman record for yards in a season. Versatile Rudy Burgess leads the Sun Devils with seven touchdowns, and the sophomore is ASU's second-leading rusher and receiver.
Up front, nagging injuries to Andrew Carnahan (thumb), Leo Tavalou (elbow), and Grayling Love (foot) have depleted the line somewhat. Carnahan hopes to return after missing the Stanford game with a dislocated thumb, while Love and Tavalou are both listed as starters this week, pending x-rays.
GAME OUTLOOK: It's the nation's third-best passing attack pitted against the PAC-10's worst pass efficiency defense. Keller has a slow throwing motion, but it will be effective enough should the Huskies exhibit the same sort of heat they've shown the last two weeks (zero sacks, zero QB hurries). Carpenter provides more mobility should Keller not be able to go. Big-time receivers have typically enjoyed outstanding days against Washington's ravaged secondary, and here comes another one in Derek Hagen. ASU's revolving line has allowed a porous nineteen sacks, while UW arguably has the league's worst pass rush.
|ARIZONA STATE DEFENSE|
TEAM STATS: 30.0 points, 450.3 yards (9th PAC-10, 178.4 rush, 271.9 pass) 20-27 in Red Zone defense (.741, 1st PAC-10, 16 TDs) TACKLES/TFL: Dale Robinson 69/9.5 Zach Catanese 66/2.5 Jamar Williams 37/2.0 PASSES DEF/INT: Robert James 6/1 Mike Davis 5/1 Maurice London 5/0 SACKS: DeWayne Hollyfield 4.0 Dale Robinson 2.5
The Sun Devils brought Bill Miller of Florida in to coordinate the defense after Brent Guy left to become head coach at Utah State. The 4-2-5 went out a year ago, replaced by a more standard 4-3. Allowing over 450 yards per contest, it's still a work in progress.
Seniors DeWayne Hollyfield and Quency Darley lead the way up front. Eight of Hollyfield's twelve tackles have been for loss, and the 275-pounder has three sacks in his last four games. Junior Jordan Hill leads ASU defensive linemen with 18 tackles.
WILL linebacker Jamar Williams was named the PAC-10 Player of the Week for his 13-tackle performance against Oregon State. The junior has seven career interceptions. Senior MLB Dale Robinson tops all Sun Devil tacklers with 69 – including 9.5 behind the line and 2.5 sacks, while SAM Robert James leads the team with six passes defensed.
JuCo Keno Walter-White and senior Josh Golden have seven pass defenses from their corner spots, while junior safety Zach Catanese has 66 tackles and a pair of sacks. Combined, Catanese and Williams have combined for over one-fourth of ASU's total tackles.
GAME OUTLOOK: Frankly, ASU hasn't played good defense when the chips are down. But after three weeks of getting pushed around by ranked teams – USC mauled them for 373 rushing yards, and Oregon another 234 - the Sun Devils will be looking forward to a Washington offense that has been less-than-stellar and has injury issues. Tall receivers have burned Arizona State all year – could be a good week for guys like Chambers and Lewis.
|ARIZONA STATE SPECIAL TEAMS|
PLACEKICKING: Jesse Ainsworth 3-4 FG (long 34), 35-35 XP PUNTING: Chris MacDonald 33-42.3 (long 67), .303 inside the 20 KICK RETURNS: Terry Richardson 10-28.5 (long 49), 0 TD Rudy Burgess 4-17.5 (long 29), 0 TD PUNT RETURNS: Terry Richardson 21-13.0 (long 84), 1 TD
Simply put, Terry Richardson is as dangerous as they come every time he touches the ball. He leads the PAC-10 in kick return average, and opened the scoring against USC with an electrifying 84-yard punt return.
Junior place-kicker Jesse Ainsworth has hit 31-of-47 FGs in his career, with a best of 48 yards, and has a streak of 79 straight extra-points made dating back to 2003. Punter Chris MacDonald has a decent average, but his low trajectory and slow snaps have accounted for four blocked punts so far – two last week in Palo Alto. A "rugby-style" punt was employed after the two Cardinal blocks, but that didn't help much either. It's been the bane of special teams coach Tom Osborne, and it should be interesting to see what they come up with this week.
Collectively, the Sun Devils have allowed five blocked kicks, helping them to a bottom ranking in the PAC-10 in net punting.
GAME OUTLOOK: Clearly, field-position should be won by ASU with Richardson's return prowess – and Washington's complete lack of same (the injured Marlon Wood notwithstanding). Both teams are guilty of maddeningly slow deep snaps, and have had their share of blocks – plus Arizona State's regular deep snapper Jason Burke is still battling a sprained foot, though he is expected to play.
If it weren't for those penalties: The PAC-10 lists 24 statistical categories each week, ranking all ten conference teams in each. Of these stats, Washington can be found in the upper half (top-five) of only TWO categories – penalties taken and opponent penalties taken. The Huskies are ranked ninth or tenth in 10 of the chosen 24 ... It is also the fourth straight meeting between UW and ASU in Tempe. The last time these two met in Husky Stadium was 1999 – a 28-7 Sun Devil victory ... Not only have 17 ASU players caught at least one pass this season – including holder and third-team QB Chad Christensen – but ten of them have scored ... More Hagan: He is only the 10th player in PAC-10 history to record 200 career receptions and 3,000 yards ... Oregon State's Mike Haas now leads the nation with 149.3 receiving yards per game. WSU's Jason Hill is second at 137.7, and Oregon's Demetrius Williams ranks fourth with 111.9. In all, seven of the nation's Top 25 teams in total offense reside in the PAC-10 ... Besides each other, both ASU and Washington still have fellow miscreants Arizona and WSU yet to play ...
Rick Samek can be reached at RSAMEK1@COMCAST.NET