TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) -Arizona State has had little trouble moving the ball in its first two games - except near the goal line.
That's where the 15th-ranked Sun Devils are looking for improvement as they meet UNLV on Saturday night in the last of three tune-ups for their Sept. 20 game against Georgia.
Arizona State failed to gain a yard on its first seven snaps inside Stanford's 5 last Saturday, twice settling for field goals. Arizona State's early struggles meant little in an easy 41-17 victory, but the Sun Devils know they'll need to be more efficient against stronger opponents.
``If we want to win big games, and close games, we have to score (touchdowns) when we get down there,'' quarterback Rudy Carpenter said. ``When you're in the red zone, you've got to do a better job running the ball because it's hard to throw down there because it's so congested.''
al line ``pretty nitpicky.'' But he conceded that he doesn't like settling for field goals.
``We've got to get better down there,'' Erickson said. ``If we don't, we're going to get in a game situation where we're going to need those touchdowns as opposed to those field goals.''
Erickson blamed Arizona State's woes on missed assignments.
``Stupid stuff that shouldn't happen,'' Erickson said.
The Sun Devils figure to have plenty of opportunities to improve their goal-line attack against overmatched UNLV, which is allowing 29.5 points per game, 88th in the nation.
The Rebels (1-1) are tied for last in the nation in red-zone defense. UNLV's first two opponents, Utah State and Utah, made a combined five trips inside the 20 and scored touchdowns each time.
UNLV is coming off a 42-21 loss to Utah in Salt Lake City. The Rebels were tied with the Utes 14-14 at halftime but collapsed in the second half, allowing 28 unanswered points.
UNLV coach Mike Sanford called it ``disappointing in that we played well enough in the first half to win. But we did not put together four quarters.''
The Rebels are 7-30 in Sanford's three-plus seasons. But he said he has seen improvement since he took over the program in December 2004.
are a better football team. We have better leadership. We have a better attitude. So far it has not shown up on the field.
``Now, it's not about talk,'' he said. ``It's not about saying that we're better. We've got to do it on the field.''
Though their campuses are only 302 miles apart, this is the first meeting between the schools. Aside from the University of Arizona, UNLV is the closest major-college football program to Arizona State. UNLV is the only Mountain West Conference member that Arizona State has not played.
It may be tempting for the Sun Devils to look ahead to their long-awaited meeting with Georgia. But Erickson said his players won't take a victory over UNLV for granted.
``They are very capable of beating us,'' he said. ``We are a team that has to focus every week against every opponent and if we don't, then we're not going to win the game and our players know that. They will be prepared to play.''
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