December 1, 2008

ASU offense struggling to keep pace with defense

The Arizona State offense and defense seem to be moving in different directions.

While the defense has looked increasingly better throughout the season, the offense is yet to come out of its three-month long funk.

After ASU defeated UCLA 34-9 on Friday, with all four touchdowns coming from the defense, coach Dennis Erickson said he wanted to save the defensive tape in his archives and burn the offensive part of it.

The four-touchdown performance for a defense tied an FBS record. The University of Florida achieved the feat on Oct. 31, 1996, and the University of Houston had four defensive touchdowns back on Nov. 7, 1987.

After watching the game film, Erickson still doesn't have any answers for either side of the ball.

He can't pinpoint why the defense has been able to score so many touchdowns or why the offense hasn't.

"Golly I wish I knew," he said.

Erickson credited his defense's hard play for all of the points it has put up (the ASU defense has had a touchdown in four consecutive games), but also said it couldn't have scored so many times without a little bit of luck.

"You've got to play hard and be around the football and all of those things, but you have to have some things happen the right way," he said. "I've been around really good (defensive) performances where you've stopped them and done a good job and shut them out and things like that. But to score that many touchdowns, I don't know that in my lifetime I'll even come close to being around that again. It was just kind of a freakish, different thing."

But even though Erickson can't pinpoint exactly why his defense keeps scoring, he doesn't mind not knowing. He just wants the trend to continue.

However, he does want to find some answers for his offense.

"Oh God, it's a number of different things," Erickson said of the offensive woes. "We just couldn't get anything going. Just no rhythm. We couldn't run it.

"Just a number of different things that were not anything coherent that we were doing."

And Quarterback Rudy Carpenter feels the same way as his coach.

He knows the offense is underperforming, but Carpenter said there is something different each play that has gone wrong so it is impossible to single out any individual problems.

"Whether it's an overthrow, or a bad throw, or a drop, or missed blocking assignments, or whatever it may be, it's just something," the senior signal caller said. "It's very rare that we have plays that go according to plan. And that's been the frustrating thing this year; we haven't been able to get things going in a consistent way."

When asked if the recent offensive struggles could be attributed to a lack of confidence, Erickson said he didn't think so.

The Sun Devil offense looked good in its two previous outings and Erickson thought it was heading in the right direction before sputtering against the Bruins.

The biggest problem last Friday, he said, was winding up in third-and-long.

"We got ourselves in third-and-seven or more a number of times," he said. "We all say as football coaches, 'first and second down are the key,' and we just weren't very successful."

Even with the recent struggles (122 offensive yards against UCLA), Carpenter and Erickson are still optimistic the offense can turn things around when ASU faces rival University of Arizona on Saturday.

"We have one more opportunity to try and turn things around and I think we're due for something good to go our way," Carpenter said. "Hopefully it can be this weekend."

Pac-10 POY

Safety Troy Nolan was named the Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Week.

In his final game at Sun Devil Stadium, the senior recorded eight tackles against UCLA and returned an interception a school-record 100 yards for a touchdown.

ASU nominated the whole defense for the award but the conference said the school had to nominate an individual player.

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