|Former Washington State coach Dennis Erickson bringing Arizona State to Pullman|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 05 October 2007 08:17|
Arizona State has had a relatively favorable schedule, with four games at home and the only road game at woeful Stanford.
``The schedule has a lot to do with it,'' Erickson said. ``That's the biggest reason we are 5-0.''
Erickson's Sun Devils first tricky road game comes Saturday against Washington State (2-3, 0-2 Pac-10).
After playing the Cougars, Arizona State faces Washington, No. 3 California, No. 14 Oregon, UCLA and No. 2 Southern California.
``We're getting to the meat of the schedule,'' said Erickson, the former Washington State coach who is in his first year at Arizona State. ``We've got some good talent. Are we great? I wouldn't say that. We're getting better all the time.''
Erickson is probably being a bit modest. The Sun Devils have pounded San Jose State, Colorado, San Diego State and Stanford, and beat Oregon State 44-32. Their defense is solid and they're one of the top scoring teams in the Pac-10 behind quarterback Rudy Carpenter and running back Ryan Torain.
Carpenter has eight career 300-yard passing games, top among active Pac-10 quarterbacks.
His favorite targets are Michael Jones and Rudy Burgess. Jones has caught 20 passes for five touchdowns. Burgess, a converted running back, is the only active player in the league with more than 1,000 career rushing and receiving yards.
Torain, who had 1,229 yards rushing last season, has 408 yards this year.
``As every week goes on and we keep on winning, I think guys are getting confidence and getting some swagger,'' Carpenter said.
The Sun Devils also lead the Pac-10 in scoring defense at 13 points a game and interceptions with 10.
``We haven't made a lot of mistakes or given up big plays,'' Erickson said.
That's in contrast to Washington State, which has perhaps the worst defense in the league. The Cougars allow the most points (36.4) and yards (457) per game. They are last in the nation in defending third-down conversions, allowing opponents to convert 59 percent of the time.
But a trip to remote Pullman is always tough.
``It was the first place I had a chance to start on the road. I've been up there before and I know how it is,'' Carpenter said. ``I think one of the biggest challenges from what I saw on the forecast might be the weather, with the rain it may be a bit cold up there.''
Erickson, who here in 1987-88, is wary of the Cougars' offense.
``They are able to score points and are dangerous from every place,'' he said.
The Cougars are coming off a 48-20 loss at Arizona.
``It was a solid kick to the gut,'' quarterback Alex Brink said. ``We're in a pretty good hole right now. When you start 0-2 in this league, you've got a lot of ground to make up.''
Brink said the Cougars need to get more out of their running game, especially after he had to pass 56 times last week.
``We're good at throwing the football, but teams do find a pattern in it and adjust,'' Brink said. ``We need to find a balance.''
Washington State coach Bill Doba is revamping his defense to make the backfield less susceptible to big plays. He also is refusing to write off the season after losses to No. 2 Southern Cal, No. 5 Wisconsin and Arizona.
``There are seven games to go,'' he said. ``We're not about to throw in the towel.''