The Sun Devils played their hearts out against Georgia, but in the end, it was not meant to be. The result cannot be changed, but their mistakes and miscues can. With that being said, there is no point to look back on the Georgia game for Sun Devil fans, Arizona State has their most important game of the season this Saturday against the Oregon State Beavers.
Arizona State will open up the 2009 Pacific Ten season against Head Coach Dennis Erickson's former team, the OSU Beavers. ASU has an opportunity to build momentum off of their near upset victory in Athens, and start off the Pac-10 slate with a win over the Beavers. Although, the timely penalties and mistakes have to be limited.
Arizona State has averaged over nine penalties a game this season. The mantra of a Dennis Erickson coached team, has been to play physical and punishing defense. Well, the Sun Devils have done that thus far through three games (211 ypg against), but at times the secondary has committed some costly penalties, which shot themselves in the foot. In earlier contests against weaker opponents, the flags thrown have not impacted the game to the degree that these penalties will influence which team wins or loses, in the upcoming Pac-10 games.
Against Georgia, the Sun Devils committed nine penalties for 62 yards. That number has to be greatly reduced if Erickson's team wants to defeat Oregon State.
Another concern in Tempe has been the offense's anemic performance in the passing game. Although, the Oregon State Beavers defense does not have the athletes that ASU faced last Saturday in Athens, the statistics for both defenses are relatively similar.
Last week, the OSU defense gave up 388 yards to the Arizona Wildcats in a 37-32 home loss in Corvallis. The Beavers previous game against Cincinnati had a similar tune. The Bearcats marched up and down the field to the beat of 408 yards, and 332 of those yards came through the air.
Now, these are all just numbers, obviously the game is won and lost on the field. However, the gridiron is where ASU Senior quarterback Danny Sullivan needs to shine. The weather and environment in Georgia was far from optimal to say the least,and Sullivan's numbers proved that, (10-32 116 yards 1 TD, 1 INT). Sullivan will need to improve his passing efficiency against the Beavers Saturday night, if the Sun Devils want to be considered in the top tier of the Conference.
Dimitri Nance has emerged as the premier back that Erickson and the Sun Devil offense was searching for. The passing game just needs to sure up their mistakes, and mental lapses. Another 204 yard performance by the offense this upcoming Saturday, will surely result in the Sun Devils first loss at home against the Beavers since 1969.
The storyline remains the same on defense heading into the Oregon State game, hard hitting and speedy, athletic defenders will make plays for ASU. Craig Bray and his defense nearly won the game in Athens causing three more turnovers, but the offense failed to capitalize late in the fourth quarter.
If the Arizona State offense cannot find their stride this week, linebacker Mike Nixon and Safety Jarrell Holman might have to turn defense into offense and lead the way. This formula, might have to be similar to their 2008 performance against UCLA, (4 defensive touchdowns in a 34-9 win).
But if I were to make a prediction on how the offense will look Saturday night, I would say that Erickson and Offensive Coordinator Rich Olson, will eliminate the miscues, (i.e. dropped balls and penalties), and light up the scoreboard at Sun Devil Stadium and beat the Beavers.