October 7, 2008

Erickson focused on continuous improvement

Following its third consecutive loss, the Arizona State football team is below .500 for the first team since 2005 - and the schedule isn't about to get any easier.

Coach Dennis Erickson said the biggest thing for ASU right now is not to panic.

He said the team needs to improve every week, especially on offense, but that it is important to remember that the Sun Devils still have a lot of football left to play and that the season is not lost.

"We are where we are," he said. "The worst thing you can do is panic. We just have to take our players and continue to get better all the time, and that's what we'll do. This is a good group of guys.

"There's a lot of positive things that can happen to us. As I said last week, we have seven football games left."

One thing incredibly important to the rest of the season is maintaining confidence, and Erickson said the team still has it.

Most of players were on last year's squad so they know how good this team could be. All they have to do now, Erickson said, is start playing like it.

"A lot of these guys won 10 games last year," he said. "It's not like they haven't won games. It's a team that believes and we have to understand what our strengths and what our weaknesses are and play to them."

Quarterback Rudy Carpenter also said that his teammates still have confidence, and he intends to keep it that way.

Carpenter puts a lot of the blame for the recent losses on his shoulders, and as a team captain that's his way of keeping his teammates' confidence up.

Carpenter has thick skin and is used to criticism, and he isn't sure if some of the younger guys could handle the criticism the way he does.

"It's like water off a duck's back for me," he said. "I'll just take it and keep trying to build the offensive linemen up and keep trying to build the running backs up and keep trying to build the tight ends and the wide receivers up, help keep their confidence up and help keeping them feeling like they can make plays. That we can do the right thing.

"I don't have any problem shouldering the responsibility for whatever happens."

Dominating defense

Since Erickson arrived in Tempe more than 19 months, he has not been as impressed with ASU's defense as he was in the final two-and-a-half quarters against Cal.

With 12:22 remaining in the second quarter, the Sun Devil defense had already allowed 17 points and 202 yards.

The rest of the way it only gave up seven points and 75 yards.

"We put ourselves in a hole," Erickson said. "But at that point, defensively we played probably as well as I've had a defense play since I've been here.

"We ran to the football, played very physical, very aggressive, created a turnover and just did a lot of things and took the run away from them."

That turnover (which actually came late in the first quarter) came courtesy of an interception by linebacker Mike Nixon.

It was the Sun Devils' first forced turnover since they played Stanford on Sept. 6.

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