Last night, August 28th, Dennis Erickson and the his 2009 Sun Devils took the field for their last fall scrimmage. Although, this was not your typical scrimmage, Erickson chose to eliminate full contact, and tackling to the ground in this "mock game."
Also, the scrimmage was more of a practice session rather than a scrimmage.
Several occasions during fan appreciation day, the Sun Devils picked up huge chunks of yardage on plays, only for the ball to be placed on a different hash mark less than five yards from the previous play.
It is understandable, that Erickson wanted to put both his offense and defense in situations to prepare them for their upcoming opponents, however, a scrimmage format would have been more suitable for the maroon and gold clad fans in attendance.
Plus on fan appreciation day, fans in attendance would have loved to see the scoreboard light bulbs working overtime.
However, once you got past the format and style of the mock game, the Sun Devils first team offense led by Senior quarterback Danny Sullivan looked very sharp and efficient against their daunting defensive counterpart.
Sullivan hooked up on big plays to Senior receivers Kyle Williams, Chris McGaha, and Junior Kerry Taylor.
The performance for the Sun Devils looked even more impressive once the offense reached the red zone. The lack of production of the 2008 season was nowhere to be found last night. The running game did not falter once the offense inched closer to the end zone, but instead pushed full speed ahead.
ASU mascot, Sparky, was even getting practice for his push up ritual after the touchdowns.
The offensive production must be credited to the offensive line's steady growth throughout fall camp. Although injuries have limited some players physically, back-ups such as Andrew Sampson, Matt Hustad, and Mike Marcisz are pushing for starting spots for the Sun Devils' opener Saturday night against Idaho State.
Thomas Altieri looks to have the center position locked down for the time being, until injured Garth Gerhart returns from his turf toe injury suffered during the first scrimmage.
Andrew Sampson and Mike Marcisz have been competing against one another to earn the start against Idaho State. Both have had some excellent showings and in other instances have shown their inexperience on the field. However, that experience will only grow with the more game time that each player sees. So, it is not unlikely that Offensive Line coach Gregg Smith will opt to rotate both Sampson and Marcisz during the Sun Devils season opener as he did during previous scrimmages.
Protecting Danny Sullivan and creating a steady running game has to be Dennis Erickson and Arizona State's number one priority. The left side of the Sun Devils' offensive line has been set for much of fall camp with Senior team captain Shawn Lauvao and Junior John Hargis holding down the fort, however, the right tackle spot might soon be locked up as well.
The 6 foot 5 inch, 292 pound Matt Hustad has impressed coaches on both sides of the ball during practice, and once again did the same during the mock game. The former state player of the year in Montana, according to Sports Illustrated has finally been able to show his ability and quality as an offensive lineman for Dennis Erickson after battling injuries for much of his early career. The redshirt sophomore will be looking to make his first start of his career this Saturday.
And speaking of starts, the Sun Devil football team is going to be dominated by upperclassmen starting for the maroon and gold. From the quarterback position, running back, the receivers, defensive linemen, the entire starting linebackers, and a couple defensive backs will all be represented heavily by the Senior and Junior classes. Which was the case in 2007 when the Sun Devils won ten games and earned a trip to the Holiday Bowl.
Now, no one is predicting a return trip to San Diego for the Holiday Bowl, however, it is going to be interesting to see how the 2009 edition of the Arizona State Sun Devils perform under the lights, starting Saturday night against Idaho State.