October 2, 2007

Dream in the Desert

Well, Devil fans, here we are. Week Six and the Road to Perdition (I mean, BCS) wanders through the Palouse. The 2007 season is now nearing its halfway point, if we can believe that, and the Sun Devils under new head coach Dennis Erickson are undefeated, ranked as high as eighth in the country (Sagarin) and 18th in the national polls. Strength of schedule has improved with the past weekend's improbable Colorado upset of Oklahoma and the Washingtons loom on the horizon to challenge the Devils' perch and continuing expectations.

What do we know? If the Stanford game is any indication, there are trends evident. Some good, some not so good. And it's clear that one thing remains undiscovered.

This is clearly a work in progress and we really don't know.

Let's start where analysts rarely start with analysis of the Sun Devils. This 2007 defense is clearly a different animal than recent Sun Devil teams have led us to expect. The 2007 defense shows quickness to the edge, a willingness to hit and wrap up, a willingness to gang tackle, and a resilience not seen in recent years. Until last Saturday's tilt, it was the defense which kept the Sun Devils in contention in games while the offense warmed up (woke up?). Against Stanford, the defense which acted much like a Major League closer keeping the opposition out of the end zone all evening and giving the offense good places to start - even contributing with a touchdown of its own.

Defensive Line. He didn't start, but Saia Falahola's impact along the interior of the defensive line was inescapable. Saia may not have many moves, but he clearly understands leverage. Against the interior of the Stanford line, which admittedly lacked its best playmaker, Falahola created unmistakable push, denting the pocket and preventing Stanford's T.C. Ostrander from stepping up in the pocket to avoid the rush from the edge. As a result, Dexter Davis, Luis Vasquez and the other defensive ends, as well as the occasional blitzing linebacker or safety, generally hurried Ostrander into poor throws.

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