|Arizona State tries to regroup after loss|
|Written by Admin|
|Sunday, 21 September 2008 23:55|
That's the way it's been for years. And it didn't change in a decisive 27-10 loss to third-ranked Georgia on Saturday night, which left Arizona State 3-26 against The Associated Press Top 25 since 2000.
The Sun Devils opened the season ranked 15th and talking about earning a Bowl Championship Series berth, but now they're 2-2 heading into back-to-back road games at California and USC.
``We've got to find ourselves,'' Arizona State safety Troy Nolan said. ``We have no identity right now.''
With a bye this week, the Sun Devils have plenty of time to figure out who they are.
They may want to look back to last season. After winning their first eight games under new coach Dennis Erickson, the Sun Devils rose to No. 4 in the Bowl Championship Series standings. Only one of those victories came against a ranked opponent - No. 18 California, which was on its way to a 7-6 record.
d goal), Northern Arizona and Stanford.
The losses have come against No. 4 Oregon by 12 points, No. 11 USC by 20, No. 17 Texas by 18, UNLV by a field goal in overtime and No. 3 Georgia by 17.
The Sun Devils' 10 points against Georgia was their lowest point total at home since a 35-7 loss to New Mexico State in 1999.
It doesn't help that ASU's archrival, Arizona, has beaten a Top 10 team each of the last three years under coach Mike Stoops.
Arizona State hired Erickson in part because he had a knack for winning big games. But he hasn't done that so far.
Erickson's best teams tend to run the ball with authority. On Saturday night, Arizona State mustered four rushing yards on 19 attempts - an average of 7.6 inches per carry.
The Sun Devils are running for 89 yards for game, 107th out of 119 teams nationally.
They haven't been able to replace hard-charging tailback Ryan Torain, who departed after his 2007 season was shortened by a toe injury.
Starting tailback Dimitri Nance is averaging 52 yards per game. Keegan Herring, who opened the season as a backup, has been slowed by a hamstring injury.
Erickson said he would consider giving more carries to touted freshman Ryan Bass.
``We need to find some way to get some explosion in the running game, and obviously we didn't have that tonight,'' Erickson said after the game.
es can sit in a zone defense, neutralizing Arizona State's strong receiving corps.
``We are going to get played that way all year if we don't run it better,'' quarterback Rudy Carpenter said.
Tailback isn't the only problem spot. Reviving memories of last year's woes, the offensive line is giving up 2.25 sacks per game, 85th in the nation.
Erickson seemed mystified by his team's performance, and he said he would open up starting positions during practice this week.
``We've got to put some positions up for grabs,'' Erickson said. ``We've got to get better.''
As bad as Arizona State has looked the last two weeks, the Sun Devils still have plenty to play for.
Few would give them any chance against top-ranked USC on Oct. 11 in Los Angeles. But the Trojans could be headed for the BCS title game in Miami, and that could leave a Rose Bowl slot for the Pac-10 runner-up.
Because BCS at-large teams need at least nine victories, Arizona State would have to win seven of its last eight to qualify.
Given ASU's performance the last two weeks, a trip to Pasadena on New Year's Day might seem a ridiculous goal. But the Pac-10 is having one of its worst years in memory, and Arizona State is 1-0 and in a four-way tie for first.
``I told the team in the locker room: We've got eight games left in conference,'' Erickson said. ``We're 2-2 and we've got eight games left in the league.''