The Arizona State Sun Devils are coming off of a very impressive 50-3 blowout win over Idaho State on September 5th, and with the team's lone bye that came and went, the Louisiana Monroe Warhawks come to Sun Devils Stadium Saturday night.
To find reason for concern only has to be traced back to a season ago: a season that started with promise, two big victories over Northern Arizona and conference rival Stanford. Then, a small, non-Bowl Championship Series school came to the desert, and feared no one. The UNLV game in 2008 shocked Sun Devil fans and turned the season of promise into a season of defeat.
With the Georgia Bulldogs looming on the schedule next Saturday, the last thing on the ASU players mind's should be the Georgia Bulldogs. Especially after what the Sun Devils allowed to happen last season at home versus the UNLV Rebels.
Dennis Erickson has preached all week about this game, the next game. No game is more important than Saturday night against Louisiana Monroe. Once that game is over, then the focus shifts, but only after the job is complete.
No one expects Louisiana Monroe to be as easy to dismantle as Idaho State was, especially after the Warhawks have a recent high-profile upset against Alabama in 2007.
This season, Louisiana Monroe has a 1-1 record with a loss to No. 4 ranked Texas 59-20 on opening weekend. Now, while the Sun Devils were resting up last weekend, the Warhawks put on a offensive show vs. Texas Southern. ULM racked up 592 yards of total offense to add to their 58 points. With two running backs surpassing the century mark on the day, the ground attack for the Warhawks is an area to fear.
On the other side of the ball, however, the Warhawks looked equally as impressive, surrendering only 103 total yards while also tacking on a safety in the contest.
The story Saturday night will revolve around the hometown Sun Devils. ASU is poised to win this game. The talent level is there. The schemes, both offensively and defensively, will outman the Warhawks.
The bottom line is if the Sun Devils come out fighting from the opening gun, the record for the maroon and gold following the game will be 2-0.
As Chris Berman says, "That's why they play the games."
Offensively for Arizona State, the wide receivers will have to do a better job of hanging onto the football. In the Sun Devils' opening night victory, the drops by receivers Gerrell Robinson, Kyle Williams, and tight end Dan Knapp stalled drives, and forced the offense to kick field goals instead of extra points following what would have been touchdowns.
The offensive line will take a slightly different look on the right side this week with the return of Tom N'Junge at right tackle. Matt Hustad will move inside to right guard. The rest of the big uglies up front remain unchanged and are starting to build some continuity between the group.
In the backfield, ASU fans will be looking to see a running back emerge from the stable that Erickson has to choose from. Dimitri Nance will once again get the start, and will look to improve upon his opening week numbers (8 carries 31 yards, TD).
Look for Shaun DeWitty and Cameron Marshall to really push the Senior for playing time this week. DeWitty really sparked the offense in the third quarter against Idaho State and finished with 52 yards on eight carries.
On the defensive side of the ball, a few old faces will be making their debut of the 2009 season this week. Defensive Tackle Lawrence Guy will try to follow up his freshman All-American campaign of 2008 with an even better sequel in 2009. Sophomore linebacker Shelly Lyons will make his debut Saturday night as well.
In practice, the Corona Centennial product, and fellow high school teammates of Vontaze Burfict and Brandon Magee have been the second line of linebackers rotating. That will be one area of the defense to watch on Saturday night when that "nightmarish" linebacking corps gets into the game.
Although the defense looked sharp in the opener, I would not expect to see the same numbers against Louisiana Monroe. The Warhawks managed to nearly put 300 yards of total offense on the Texas Longhorns on opening weekend, but then again, the ASU defense is very solid from front to back.
ASU Player to Watch—DT Lawrence Guy
The Las Vegas native has been sidelined for the last couple weeks with a biceps injury. The coaching staff has stated that Guy is nearly 100% going into this game against Louisiana Monroe. With the depth at defensive tackle, and the emergence of Freshman sensation, Will Sutton, Lawrence Guy probably feels the need to make a big time statement early in this game. Guy has been making a name for himself in the offensive backfield during ASU's practices and has been virtually unblockable with his relentless pass rush. Lawrence Guy is going to make a big statement Saturday night, the only question is when.
Louisiana Monroe Player to Watch—RB Frank Goodin
Frank Goodin is the star running back for the Warhawks. So far this season, Goodin has amassed 165 yards on the ground with four touchdowns.
Against Texas, Goodin had 60 yards on 15 carries while getting into the end zone in Austin, TX once. Throughout his career, Goodin has scored 13 times and has rushed for over 1,500 yards in three seasons. If ULM is going to be successful Saturday night, the Warhawks offense is going to have to run the football and control the clock, similar to what UNLV utilized last season.
The Prediction—ASU 38 ULM 13
The Sun Devils will not allow for another UNLV debacle of a season ago. The coaches won't allow it, and the players will not allow it. From the opening whistle, the Sun Devils are going to make sure Louisiana Monroe remembers who they played on that night.
To be successful, the offense has to eliminate the small mistakes that stalled drives against the Idaho State Bengals: dropped balls, mental errors, and silly penalties have to be limited or erased totally for ASU to be successful in this game.
As far as the defense goes, I think that Craig Bray, the defensive coordinator, will utilize a more aggressive blitzing scheme against ULM. With this being the case, I look for more turnovers for the Devils defense. Senior linebacker Mike Nixon will be around the football again, this time returning a fumble for a touchdown. Vontaze Burfict will have a larger role in this game, which is tough to imagine, as he led the team in tackles, and recovered a fumble.
I think the game will be a stalemate early, but the offense will start clicking late in the first quarter. The defense should be lights-out from that point on, allowing only garbage points once the game is in hand.
However, this game could turn the totally opposite way, if the Sun Devils don't come out and compete with passion and pride from the opening whistle. Mistakes have to be limited, or else ULM could hang around and start believing that they can win, much like UNLV last season.
Only time will tell how this one will turn out.
Saturday night: 7:00pm Sun Devil Stadium