November 25, 2008

Sun Devils hope to continue winning streak

The Arizona State football team is in the midst of its longest winning streak of the season, and it's obvious.

Practice has been more upbeat, the players have a little extra swagger, the coaches yell a little bit less and there are more smiles all around.

The Sun Devils are starting to feel good about themselves again after dropping six games in a row in the middle of the season, but they still know where they stand.

"We know we're still 4-6, but we're feeling better," wide receiver Mike Jones said. "We're coming out here and having more fun now. You have more fun when you're winning games."

But as much fun as the team is having now, all of that laughter and joy will quickly disappear if ASU loses to UCLA this weekend, making the Sun Devils ineligible for a bowl game.

"This is a very important game for us to win," quarterback Rudy Carpenter said. "We're playing one-week season right now to stay alive for the postseason."

Jones even took Carpenter's "one-week season" mantra a little farther.

"It's almost more like one-day seasons," he said. "We have to come out here and practice hard every single day and then when it comes to Saturday, or Friday this week, we have to go out there and play our hardest because we know with one more loss the season is over."

Coach Dennis Erickson understands how his players feel because he feels the same way. He feels the team gaining momentum but also senses the urgency of every game. The biggest thing slowing the team's momentum right now in his mind is the extra bye-week.

"It seems like we've had 100 byes," he joked.

The Sun Devils had their third bye-week of the season last week.

"I would have preferred to play," Erickson said.

Carpenter feels the same way.

In his five years at ASU, he has never experienced more than two bye-weeks in a season and prefers that compared to the extended season the Sun Devils have this year.

"I would have rather not had the bye-week and just been able to play," he said. "We've had two wins in a row and we want to keep that going and just play. Sometimes when you have a bye-week you get kind of farther away from the game. You get a little bit relaxed or whatever it may be and sometimes people can come out flat. Hopefully that won't be our case especially because it's senior night and hopefully we can use some of that emotion."

Jones echoed Carpenter's sentiment, but all you can do, he said, is play your schedule as it is.

I've never had three bye-weeks since I've been here," he said, "but you have to do what the schedule tells you to do."

Dominating DTs

When asked about the UCLA defense Monday, Carpenter and Erickson immediately brought up the Bruins' defensive tackles.

"Probably two of the better defensive tackles in college football to be honest with you," Carpenter said of Brigham Harwell and Brian Price.

Price is second on the team with 4.5 sacks on the year while Harwell has recorded 48 tackles, six of which were for a loss.

Erickson called Harwell and Price "dominating football players" and said generating pressure up the middle makes life miserable for an opposing quarterback.

"They get four-man pressure and when you get four-man pressure you can play zone behind," he said. "[Pressure is important] particularly in the middle because their ends can come down up the field and force the quarterback inside. Some teams don't have that presence in the middle so when you step up inside you have room to step up and throw it. With those guys, when they force you to step up inside there's penetration and it creates a lot of problems."

Quick hits

  • Safety Clint Floyd was a full participant in practice Monday for the first time in more than a month.

    He has been sidelined with a lacerated kidney since ASU played USC on Oct. 11, but it appears he will play Friday against UCLA.

    Floyd took reps with the second team on Monday.

  • Linebacker Colin Parker did not practice Monday with an apparent right leg injury.

    Parker spent time on the stationary bike and was not dressed in full pads.

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