September 29, 2008

Sun Devils seeking greater offensive balance

Even though Arizona State had no success running the football in their most recent game against Georgia, coach Dennis Erickson said Monday that he will not abandon the rushing attack moving forward.

In fact, Erickson wants his team to run the football more over in its final eight contests.

"We've got to balance our offense out," he said on Monday.

In the 27-10 loss to the Bulldogs on Sept. 20, ASU only ran the ball 19 times compared to 36 pass attempts.

If Erickson could go back and re-coach the Sept. 20 game against the Bulldogs, he said he would have called different plays throughout the game.

"If I had a mulligan, I would go in and just run it more," Erickson said. "I don't know that [the lack of production on the ground] has anything to do with anything other than hey, 'Let's make a commitment to [running] it more,' and we're going to do that.

"It's not how many yards you gain but that you run it and you're physical and those kind of things. I think we made a mistake not thinking that we could go in and run it against Georgia in that game."

But even though Erickson stressed the importance of running the football, the number of rushing attempts per game has seemingly not had a direct correlation with ASU's wins and losses.

In the win over NAU, ASU ran the ball 23 times and passed it 26 times.

Against Stanford, another win, the Sun Devils were perfectly balanced with 36 passes and 36 rushes.

Then in the Sun Devils' first loss of the season, they ran the ball 36 times compared to 23 pass attempts against UNLV.

Rudy Carpenter said that as a quarterback, he wants to throw the ball on every play, but he knows for the team to win it must run the ball more and be effective on the ground.

While Carpenter did complete nearly 64 percent of his passes against Georgia, he only totaled 208 passing yards.

And that was because the Bulldog defense dropped eight men into coverage much of the night. Georgia's strategy allowed the short passes, but kept Carpenter from making long completions down the field.

"I completed a high percentage of passes, but those passing plays were as good as runs," Carpenter said. "They were five, six yards. We weren't hitting big plays because we couldn't because of the defense that was presented to us so that's why it's important to run the ball. That way we can get more guys down into the box, more safeties down, get more one-on-one coverage.

"When we can get that, we can take shots down the field. But those shots aren't going to be there unless we can establish some kind of run game. Play action fakes don't work. All that stuff is sort of thrown out the window when you don't run it like you should."

One of the reasons for the Sun Devils' recent lack of rushing production has been inconsistency with the offensive line.

As a result, Erickson made some changes in the bye-week.

The biggest change has been at right tackle.
Previously, that starting spot had been occupied by Adam Tello, but Erickson said Tom Njunge is the leading candidate to start there on Saturday.

"We haven't made a decision," Erickson said, "but if we were going to start tomorrow Njunge would be the starter."

Also in the mix at right tackle is redshirt freshman Matt Hustad, and the coaching staff has even considered moving Shawn Lauvao out to the tackle spot as well from his home at left guard.

Another new face who could see considerable playing time on the offensive front in the upcoming weeks is Zach Schlink.

Currently Schlink is the first backup at both guard positions.

"There's a lot of different options that we have," Erickson said. "We haven't made any decisions on what we're going to do yet.

"Obviously we have to do something."

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