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August 23, 2007

Running game shows well in final scrimmage

True to his word, Arizona State coach Dennis Erickson had his team scrimmage for a third and final time in the preseason on Wednesday in advance of Friday's Mock Game, which could end up looking more like a limited-contact walk through.

Erickson was pleased with what he saw from the first and second team offenses, and in particular with the offensive line and running game.

Tailback Ryan Torain had an impressive 56-yard touchdown run in which he broke through a big hole up the middle on blocks by center Mike Pollak and right guard Paul Fanaika and subsequently got the best of several would-be tacklers in the secondary.

One of the cornerbacks attempting to tackle Torain -- it appeared to be Travis Smith -- somehow had his mouthpiece jarred loose and sent into mid-air during the collision.

"It was a lot better," Erickson said. That's what we had to do. We had to find out where we were at. Probably went 20 plays with the ones and twos. I thought we executed better. There's still some things. We dropped some balls. We lost some drives because of it. I thought it was better offensively. We blocked better up front. Defensively we flew around like we have been."

The Sun Devils appeared to do a much better job with run blocking up front, and outside of perhaps one or two plays, kept the defensive line, and blitzing linebackers away from its quarterbacks.

"I though the front and the running game and the pass protection and all that stuff was very good," Erickson said. "I thought what hurt drives was dropping balls. I thought we ran the football a lot better, a lot more consistency. Torain and (Keegan) Keegan ran pretty well. I'm glad we did it. We needed to do that for ourselves."

Erickson was effusive in his praise of Torain, who has been used sparingly in the team's three scrimmages in an effort to keep him healthy.

"He's special; there's no question about it," Erickson said of his star back. "He can make a lot of things happen. We've got to help him by throwing the football too. If they starting putting seven in the box to stop the running game, we've got to be able to fling it. We've got to catch it and run routes and do the things that we're capable of doing. Because that's how they're going to play us. So now they're going to put us one-on-one on the outside, we've got to make plays. That's where we've got to get the consistency. It's not Ryan, it's not the offensive front. We've got to throw it and catch it. Which we're doing pretty well."

Another player singled out by Erickson for his strong play was freshman quarterback Samson Szakacsy, who had a solid scrimmage last Friday and followed it up with a good effort in Wednesday's practice.

"I thought Samson has really come a long way since he's come in in," Erickson said. "Learning things, threw it really well and getting better. I'm happy with that because we have to use him as a third."

The team suffered one noteworthy injury in the scrimmage, as backup center Thomas Altieri went down with an injured left knee.

"They'll MRI it (sprained medial collateral ligament) tomorrow but he said probably a couple week injury," Erickson said of the preliminary report. "It's not as bad as I thought when you looked at it. He'll probably miss the first game."

The Sun Devils had used true freshman Garth Gerhart as third team center, but it would appear more likely that Robert Gustavis would shift over from guard to center if Pollak were to come out of a game, and Shawn Lauvao who fill Gustavis' spot.

In the kicking game, Thomas Weber went 3-for-3 with a long of 47 yards. Zach Richards went 2-for-3, with a miss from 30 yards and a long of 47 yards.


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