August 16, 2008
Defense takes day at Tontozona scrimmage
Through the first two weeks of camp, the ASU defense has dominated the offense whenever the two go head to head, and Saturday's scrimmage at Camp Tontozona was no different.
The Sun Devil defense limited the offense to just two touchdowns all afternoon, and in the words of Coach Dennis Erickson, the defense is right where it should be for this time of the year.
"Defensively we're playing like we need to play," he said. "We're all over the football field. We're tackling very well. We're getting pressure on the passer. We're playing pretty well."
The defense appeared much more fired up than the offense all afternoon, and everyone from the linemen to the safeties was making plays.
The defense forced two turnovers, a fumble recovery by Pierre Singfield and an interception by Dexter Davis, along with four sacks and eight pass deflections.
"I thought we came out with pretty good energy," said Gerald Munns, who accounted for two of the pass deflections. "Like Coach [Erickson] said, we just got to keep improving, don't settle for this. It's a good day but on defense you just have to keep working hard."
While the play of the defense was right on par, the offense did not perform to the level Erickson had hoped it would.
Players were dropping passes, missing their blocking assignments, not finishing their routes and the offense lacked its usual energy and enthusiasm, which led to the low-scoring performance.
In fact, the special teams accounted for more touchdowns than the offense.
During a punting period, Kyle Williams returned a punt 83 yards for a touchdown and Kerry Williams housed two, one from 78 yards out and another one from about 70 yards away. (several plays were blown dead before the punter could take a final shot at the return man. This report assumes the plays would have resulted in touchdowns, which is likely).
Part of the lack of offensive production can be attributed to injuries, with Mike Jones (concussion), Chris McGaha (toe), Brandon Smith (hamstring), Nate Kimbrough (eye) and Shaun DeWitty (hamstring) all sidelined, but also the offense just isn't quite where it needs to be yet.
"On the [offensive] side of the football we're not executing very well," Erickson said. "We just have to continue to improve."
While Rudy Carpenter agreed with Erickson's assessment of the offense, he said having so many veteran wide receivers injured now will help the offense in the long run.
"Obviously it's not a good thing when you have your two biggest playmakers from the year before out with Mike Jones and Chris McGaha," Carpenter said. "But I will say it's also a good thing. We have T.J. Simpson who made a lot of plays today and I think he can help us out. We had other guys, Kyle Williams and Kerry Taylor, make some plays for us.
"Whenever you have guys out it allows guys to come in and compete and make plays which is what they have been doing. There's always pros and cons to everything."
And Carpenter wasn't the only person who was impressed by Simpson's performance.
After the scrimmage, Erickson gave unsolicited praise to the redshirt freshman who started in place of McGaha, saying he has perhaps benefited the most from his extra reps.
Simpson finished the scrimmage with four receptions for 49 yards.
Williams was the top wide receiver on the afternoon in terms of receptions (five) and yards (59). Taylor finished with two catches for 21 yards.
Carpenter put up a solid performance. The senior began the scrimmage completing his first six pass attempts en route to a 10-for-16 performance totaling 133 yards.
It is obvious that Carpenter has matured a lot from this time a year ago; he now knows when to simply throw the ball away rather than trying to do too much which often times resulted in sacks.
"Rudy's learning that there are certain things you can't do with the ball," Erickson said. "It's a lot easier to throw it out of bounds and be second-and-10 than be second-and-25.
"That's a process we've worked on ever since last fall. He's getting better at that."
Across the board, the rushing attack was very ineffective all afternoon, and that, Erickson said, was a large contributor to the lack of offensive execution.
Aside from two huge runs of more than 40 yards each, one by James Morrison and the other by Ryan Bass, every other rushing attempt went less than seven yards.
Keegan Herring was limited in his attempts because of a nagging shoulder injury and finished with minus-5 rushing yards, although he did score on a 4-yard touchdown run up the middle, benefiting from a generous spot as he seemingly went down a bit short of the goal line.
Dimitri Nance rushed for eight yards on five attempts and Jarrell Woods had 11 yards on four carries.
Morrison had the most eye-popping day out of the backfield.
The 220 pound walk-on showed tremendous power and footwork, punishing would-be tacklers and making nimble cutbacks.
Although Bass was the team's second-leading rusher Saturday, he continues to have trouble holding onto the ball. He dropped a pitch from Sullivan that led to a turnover and he muffed a fair catch attempt on special teams.
Besides Herring's score, the team's only other offensive touchdown came on a 27-yard pass from Jack Elway to Keelan Johnson, with late rotation by safety Mike Callaghan.
Elway finished the scrimmage 3-7 for 40 yards.
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