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October 26, 2009

No let up in schedule ahead for Sun Devils

The last time this Arizona State football team suffered bitter defeat, it got to rebound by playing Washington State.

After getting bruised by Stanford's offensive line and battered by Toby Gerhart in Saturday's 33-14 defeat, ASU isn't so lucky this time around.

Up next is Cal and its beastly backfield. Then there's that game against USC. Oh, and don't forget about the road game against Oregon after that.

"We've got an opportunity to go out and play at home and re-prove ourselves," ASU coach Dennis Erickson said. "That's how this league is … How you react to the setback is the key, not the setback itself."

If the Sun Devils (4-3, 2-2 Pac-10) are going to bounce back, they are going to have to earn it. Cal (5-2, 2-2) currently sits at No. 24 in the BCS standings, while No. 5 USC and No. 10 Oregon also moved up the chart.

Despite the daunting task ahead, Erickson sounds eager for Saturday's Halloween matchup against the Golden Bears.

"It's a great setting for our football team to come back and do what we do and that's play football," Erickson said. "This is where we want to be. In this part of the schedule we should step up, play football and win some games. That's where we need to be with this program."

Saturday's latest setback at Stanford featured several storylines, some new and some old.

For the first time all season, an opponent was able to consistently pound the ASU front seven on the ground. Gerhart finished with 125 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries, while the Cardinal controlled the ball for more than 37 minutes.

"They came off and knocked us off the football, No. 1," Erickson said. "That has not happened to us this year but it sure in the heck happened on Saturday … We've got to find a way to slow it down. We didn't tackle real well, we didn't tackle real well in the secondary. [There is] a lot of work we've got to do."

The secondary also looked very porous while the defensive line failed to record a sack for the third time this season. ASU gave up season highs in first downs (27), total yards (473) and rushing yards (237), while Gerhart became the first back to eclipse the century mark.

Stanford's ball control, coupled with ASU's offensive struggles, effectively ended the game by halftime. The Cardinal held a 24-0 lead, a seemingly insurmountable challenge for the ASU offense to comeback from in 30 minutes.

The Sun Devil offense sputtered in the first half, as its five possessions ended in four punts (including three 3-and-outs) and a fumble.

Once again, senior quarterback Danny Sullivan struggled with his accuracy, this time in front of dozens of hometown friends and family members. He finished 12-of-23 for 143 yards and two touchdowns, before leaving the game with what Erickson called a "mild knee sprain" in the fourth quarter.

"I think he'll probably practice tomorrow," Erickson said of Sullivan. "I don't know if he'll be full speed or not, but there's no problem as far as the game is concerned."

Freshman quarterback Brock Osweiler entered the game with about eight minutes remaining but didn't capitalize on his opportunity. Osweiler was also inaccurate, completing just 1-of-7 pass attempts for 18 yards.

Sullivan said his knee is "fine" and has clearly turned the page on a bittersweet weekend back home.

"It was fun, but at the same time the result didn't come out the way you wanted it to be," Sullivan said.

The Sun Devils also shot themselves in the foot with crucial penalties, four of which resulted in Stanford first downs.

"I've got a huge concern for it," Erickson said. "You just can't have penalties like that and we continue to have them … It's affected the outcomes of two of our football game as it always will and we've got to be more disciplined."

Senior wide receiver Kyle Williams was held out against Stanford because of a hamstring injury and Erickson said he didn't know if Williams would be able to practice this week.

Senior center Thomas Altieri suffered a medial collateral ligament sprain and Erickson called him "very questionable" for Saturday's game.


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