Sun Devils struggle to run the ball Print
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Thursday, 02 October 2008 22:32
NCAAF Headline News

 TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) -Given a chance to do it again, Arizona State coach Dennis Erickson would try to run the ball more against Georgia.
``If I had a do-over, if I had a mulligan, I would just go in and run it more to give us a chance to run,'' Erickson said this week. ``I don't know if it has anything to do with anything other than saying, 'Let's make a commitment to running it more,' and we are going to do that now.''
The new emphasis begins with Saturday's visit to visit to California, and it can't come soon enough for one of the nation's worst rushing teams.
With a victory at Berkeley, the Sun Devils (2-2, 1-0 Pac-10) would remain in contention for their third Rose Bowl berth in 31 years as a Pac-10 member. ASU visits No. 9 Southern California next weekend and probably can't afford two conference losses.
o opponents, UNLV and Georgia, played a deep zone defense and almost dared ASU to run the ball. The Sun Devils expect Cal (3-1, 1-0) to use similar tactics.
``When you run the ball, it opens up the offense,'' senior guard Paul Fanaika said.
When Dirk Koetter coached Arizona State, he was at times criticized for having an ineffective running game. Four games into a disappointing season, the same knock applies to Erickson's Sun Devils.
Despite Erickson's pledge to establish the ground game, Arizona State has regressed in that critical area. The lack of a credible ground game may be the biggest single reason the Sun Devils are floundering at .500 after opening the season at No. 15.
In 2006, Koetter's final season, ASU ran 497 times for 2,206 yards, an average of 169.7 yards per game and 4.4 yards per carry.
Last year, Erickson's first at the helm, the Sun Devils ran 549 times for 1,781 yards, an average of 137 yards per game and 3.2 yards per carry. (That figure is somewhat skewed because it includes a whopping 382 yards lost in sacks.)
The running numbers have continued to slide this season. The Sun Devils average 89 rushing yards per game, 110th in the nation, and they average 3.1 yards per carry. Seven of the eight teams below ASU in that category have losing records, which underscores the importance of the ground game.
a. The Sun Devils ran for four yards on 19 carries. That works out to 7.6 inches per carry.
The fall-off might be attributed to an inexperienced offensive line and the departure of tailback Ryan Torain, whose eligibility expired. A toe injury sidelined Torain after seven games last year, and ASU's running game hasn't really recovered.
When this season opened, Erickson had planned to split the load between junior Dimitri Nance and senior Keegan Herring, but Herring hurt his hamstring and has missed the last two games. He could return at Berkeley on Saturday.
``I wouldn't say he is 100 percent, but he is getting closer,'' Erickson said. ``I would anticipate him playing in the football game.''
Erickson is considering giving more carries to freshman Ryan Bass, a highly touted recruit from Corona, Calif., who backed out on a commitment to Arizona last winter.
Erickson said he has stressed the running game in the two weeks of practice since the Georgia loss. Now it's a matter of producing in games.
``Obviously we have to get better up front, but it's harder to run the ball if you don't run it,'' Erickson said. ``We made an effort last week (in practice) to run it more and to give our guys a chance to do it, so we have to balance our offense out. That doesn't mean we are going to run it 40 times a game by any means, but it does mean that we have to be somewhat effective running the football.''
 

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