Week 9: ASU at UW

Arizona State (4-3) righted themselves with a victory over the Stanford Cardinal while the Huskies (4-4) come off of another heartbreaking road loss against a top-10 opponent, this time the California Bears. This game is crucial for both teams, as the Sun Devils and Huskies both still very much entertain bowl game aspirations. Here is a preview of Saturday's clash.

LAST WEEK: Washington played the #10 team in the country all the way to the final whistle, only to succumb in overtime to the Golden Bears in Strawberry Canyon. Carl Bonnell was fleet of foot and moved the chains well in his first start in two years at quarterback, but he also threw five interceptions, the final one in OT to seal the game for Cal. Bonnell was very accurate on the deep ball and finished the game 17 of 31 for 284 yards and two touchdowns despite the five picks. He also added 64 yards on the ground and a 7-yard touchdown scamper that put the Huskies back into the lead in the fourth quarter. Tailback Louis Rankin had 88 yards on 22 carries. Anthony Russo (3 receptions for 91 yards, 1 TD), Robert Lewis (3 rec. 36 yards), and Corey Williams (3 rec. 29 yards) shared the wealth at receiver, and Sonny Shackelford added 2 catches for 63 yards. The Offensive Line did a nice job of not allowing any sacks. The defense was led by Scott White, who had 9 tackles, and CJ Wallace, who added 7 stops. Jordan Reffett had a huge stop on fourth and one in Husky territory. True freshman LB Donald Butler came up big and had a forced fumble. But Cal's Marshawn Lynch proved to be too much for the Huskies in the end, as his 22-yard score in overtime vaulted the Bears to victory after the Huskies had forced the game into the extra period with a hail Mary throw that Marlon Wood caught on a deflection and vaulted into the endzone for a 40-yard score with 0:00 remaining in regulation. LAST WEEK: Arizona State (4-3, 1-3 Pac10) took advantage of winless Stanford, and proceeded to clobber the Cardinal 38-3. Once again it was the Sun Devils' rushing attack that led the way for the offense. The maroon and gold collected 206 yards on the ground and four touchdowns. JC transfer Ryan Torain was once again the lead rusher with 90 yards on 17 carries. Sophomore Keegan Herring, who lost his starting job to Torain, had his best game of the year scoring two TD's of his own. ASU's aerial attack has been grounded with the struggles of sophomore quarterback Rudy Carpenter and a fairly inexperienced wide receiver unit. However, Carpenter was sharp, albeit throwing mostly short to medium routes, and completed 14 of 15 passes for 160 yards and a touchdown. In fact, Carpenter connected on 12 straight passes (which were also his first 12), which is one less than the school's record for consecutive passes completed.

Even during its defeats, the ASU defense has shown a marked improvement from 2005. The maroon and gold defenders absolutely suffocated the visitors from Palo Alto, limiting them to 145 total yards – the second best showing ever in that category under head coach Dirk Koetter. The Sun Devils sacked Stanford's T.C. Ostrander twice and continually harassed him all afternoon, forcing him to complete just 28 percent of his passes. The Sun Devils also forced three turnovers in that game.
KEY INJURIES: QB Isaiah Stanback (foot - out), QB Carl Bonnell (shoulder separation - will play), TB Kenny James (ankle - possible). KEY INJURIES: Andrew Carnahan, OL, is out. Terry Richardson, WR is doubtful. Chris Blaoney, CB and Shaun DeWitty, RB, are questionable.
WHEN WASHINGTON IS ON OFFENSE: For the most part, Bonnell showed nice accuracy and touch on his throws. He doesn't have the arm strength to throw across his body like Stanback does, but he has nicer touch. Bonnell also showed a good instinct when to tuck and run, and proved to be elusive. If James cannot go, Louis Rankin will take on more responsibilities as the feature back. Rankin is very fast but isn't known as a between the tackles type of back. The third string TB is Shelton Sampson who has yet to see the field. The receiving corps didn't suffer any drops last week. Anthony Russo and Sonny Shackelford are the starters but Corey Williams made a nice showing last week and Quintin Daniels appears healthy. Marlon Wood is the fastest of the bunch and could be dangerous on inside screens. Marcel Reece (6-4 245) is a huge target that the Husky coaches are trying to find ways to get more involved. TE Robert Lewis showed good skills last week and may have something going with Bonnell. The offensive line is the same as it has been for every game thus far: WT Ben Ossai, OG Clay Walker, C Juan Garcia, OG Stanley Daniels, and ST Chad Macklin. There are three seniors in that group and they performed very well at Cal last week after a horrible performance against OSU the week before. Washington's rushing attack has been inconsistent to date, so look for a short passing game in attempts to soften the Sun Devil middle. WHEN ARIZONA STATE IS ON OFFENSE: With the recent struggles of Carpenter and the wideouts, ASU has quickly become a run-first attack. Look for the physical Ryan Torain and the shifty Keegan Herring to possibly get close to 40 carries between them. That duo is also very adept at catching screen passes and tacking on several yards after the catch.

After a rough start to the season, Carpenter and his receiving targets are showing signs of improvement. Zach Miller is by far the squad's best wide receiver, and has been Carpenter's favorite outlet for his passes. Junior Rudy Burgess was one of the better receivers earlier in the season, but injuries at the cornerback position are forcing him to exclusively play in the defensive backfield the rest of the year. Sophomore wide receiver Nate Kimbrough has been the most consistent wide receiver the last few weeks, and along with Miller is also on the receiving end of many Carpenter passes. As mentioned, one can expect the Sun Devils not to go downfield as often as they did the last few years.
WHEN ARIZONA STATE HAS THE BALL: Washington features a 4-3 alignment that shifts a great deal up front. The ends are senior Brandon Ala and RS-freshman Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, with Junior Greyson Gunheim a co-starter with Ala. Inside the starters are Jordan Reffett, who has really come on, and Wilson Afoa. Senior Donny Mateaki splits snaps with Reffett inside. The linebackers tackled well last weekend after making a horrific showing against the Beavers. Senior Scott White, Junior Dan Howell, and Senior Tahj Bomar have been the starters but true freshman Donald Butler got a lot of Bomar's snaps last week and made a solid showing. Chris Stevens and EJ Savannah add great depth and speed to this group, and Trenton Tuiasosopo adds size inside. The secondary got better with the return of Dashon Goldson at corner along with Roy Lewis, who has been steady. Goldson splits snaps with senior Matt Fountaine and the nickel back is Mesphin Forrester. The starting safeties are Jason Wells, who is healthy again after a bad concussion suffered against USC, and CJ Wallace, the team's best tackler. Chris Hemphill and Forrester add depth at safety and play about 1/3 of the snaps. Against Arizona State, this defense will want to change their alignments and looks a great deal in an effort to confuse Sun Devil QB Carpenter, who has been prone to throwing interceptions at times. WHEN WASHINGTON HAS THE BALL: With backup Carl Bonnell at the helm, fresh off a five interception game, ASU must feel that they can rattle the young signal caller. While they did an excellent job just rushing just four linemen against Stanford, they will probably need to blitz and use more complex schemes to get into the Huskies' backfield. Senior defensive end Kyle Caldwell has played very well the last two games, and will undoubtedly be a big part of any potential success ASU's defensive line may have. Senior linebacker Derron Ware may be the team's fastest rush end, and he too could have a big role on Saturday. The front seven for ASU has struggled against the run in the first three Pac-10 games, and it will be interesting to see if Kenny James has healed up in time to perhaps give the Sun Devils some rushing fits of his own. Anthony Russo and Sonny Shackelford certainly rank among some of the more dangerous wide receiver tandems in the league, and the Huskies will certainly want to get them to test Burgess, who will be playing in only his second game ever at corner. The other corner is JC transfer Justin Tryon who has been one of the more steady defenders for ASU. Junior Josh Barrett is a speedy and talented safety, who also leads the team in tackles, and will be asked to help out defending the passing game, along with fellow safety and freshman phenom Ryan McFoy. Senior safety Zach Catanese is the second leading tackler on the team and is probably more effective against the run compared to the two aforementioned teammates.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Michael Braunstein handles all placekicking and kickoff duties. He has connected on 6-8 field goal tries and has been perfect on all 23 PATs. The deep snapping is now solid with Danny Morovick improving a great deal over the past two games. Sean Douglas is averaging over 45 yards per punt. The return specialists are Roy Lewis on kickoffs (18.8 yards per return) and Marlon Wood on punts (7 yards per return). The kick coverage was a problem early in the season but seems to have been solidified. In the games Washington has won this year, they have won the field position game, and they'll need to execute the punting game and kick off return tackling to perfection to achieve this. Douglas is capable of pinning opponents deep in their own end of the field, which is where mistakes usually occur. SPECIAL TEAMS: ASU's punting woes of 2005 are so far a thing of the past, thanks to solid play of JC transfer Jonathan Johnson who averages 40.7 yards a punt. Kicker Jesse Ainsworth is 4-7 on field goals this season, but hasn't made a field goal of 40 or more yards in a couple of years. As always, the senior boots the majority of his kickoffs for touchbacks, but when he doesn't the Sun Devils have been somewhat shaky in their kickoff coverage. Senior Terry Richardson is arguably the Pac-10's best kick and punt returner, averaging 33.6 and 11.2 yards respectively in those categories. Yet, other players will have to pick up the slack in his absence. Namely, redshirt freshman Chris McGaha who looked fairly well returning kicks and punts against Stanford. Burgess and Kimbrough are also potential return men for ASU.
WASHINGTON CAN WIN IF: they don't throw five interceptions, for one. Also, some sort of running game must be established. They have been one-dimensional for the most part, and TB Louis Rankin will break the occasional long run but never seems to be consistent. That would help out a new QB immensely. If the Huskies can get any kind of running game going, Carl Bonnell and his receiving corps are good enough to score on ASU. Avoid the turnovers and score in the red zone and the Dawgs can prevail. The Dawgs have to avoid the letdown after an emotional loss on the road at Cal. That has to be behind them. ARIZONA STATE CAN WIN IF: The Sun Devils' have been featuring in recent weeks a no-frills offense, predicated on a strong rushing attack and sure passing. Consequently, the plethora of turnovers in the beginning of Pac-10 play hasn't revealed its ugly head. This scheme is also one that can aid them in gaining an advantage in time of possession, wearing down Washington's defense, and ultimately getting a precious conference road victory. On defense, ASU can come away victorious if they can disrupt the inexperienced Carl Bonnell, realizing that the Huskies may posses a bigger threat in the air than on the ground.
WASHINGTON WILL LOSE IF: they tackle poorly. ASU's tailback is a big guy who is very capable of breaking tackles. Torain runs downhill, so the DL is going to need to occupy the OL, allowing the fast linebackers like Howell and White to come in and wrap him up. Washington can't afford to give up the ball on turnovers, that goes without saying, but they also cannot have any breakdowns in the kicking game. ASU is more talented than the Oregon state team that drilled the dawgs two weeks ago. It's going to take a better effort to beat the Sun Devils. Coming out flat after a tough loss would not be a good idea. ARIZONA STATE OUTLOOK: After starting Pac-10 play at 0-3, playing arguably the three best teams in the conference (Cal, USC and Oregon), the Sun Devils felt that winning the last six games in league play was a feasible and could ensure a good 2006 campaign after all. That journey started with a homecoming win against Stanford, which considering the state of the Cardinal, was the proverbial no-win situation. Even with its injuries, Washington will present a very tough test and Pac-10 road victories have been hard to come by in recent years for the Devils. Yet, catching Washington on a three-game slide, could work to the benefit of the visitors from Tempe who know that a win in Seattle could infuse even more confidence in a team that continues to rebound from its own three-game losing stretch.
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David Samek is the Publisher of Dawgman.com and the Editor-In-Chief of Sports Washington magazine. He has been covering Washington football since 1996. Hod Rabino is the publisher for DevilsDigest.com

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