Sunday, August 31, 2008

Not Bad for a Jockey

Dustin Pedroia has been absolutely on fire this weekend, and is even being talked about as a possible MVP candidate.

Coming into Sunday, he had reached safely in his last 10 plate appearances, including two straight 4-for-4 performances. Pedroia is so hot right now that Ozzie Guillen was forced to call for an intentional walk. Here's what he had to say after the game:

''I never thought I was going to walk a goddamn jockey,'' Guillen said of the 5-7 Pedroia, a player he actually admires. ''Walking a guy who just came from being on top of Big Brown. Right now, he's on a roll. This guy right now is on fire. No matter what you throw up there, he's going to get it. I can't believe you can change professions in one year, go from the Kentucky Derby to the Boston Red Sox ballpark.''

Ozzie Guillen is pretty funny for a guy who is this close to missing the post-season, again.

What We Learned This Weekend

About the 2008 Team...
  • That we need to solidify who is the #2 quarterback behind Rudy Carpenter. Sullivan had the second worst backup QB performance on the day next to Cal's Nate Longshore (who's approval rating at Berkeley is about 2 points lower than Dick Cheney's). Look for Samson and Stangel to get some major playing time when we're up on Nevada-Las Vegas by 35 at the half.
  • We said in our Deadspin Preview that Kerry Taylor would have a breakout season, and now you know why.
  • Our Defensive Line can hold their own. The return of Saia Falahola was a big boost last night, and Dexter Davis and David Smith are in midseason form.
  • We've got members of the secondary (Max Tabach, Rodney Cox) who can actually make open field tackles. Haven't seen that in a while.
  • We've given up run blocking for pass blocking. Nance averaged 2.7 per carry last night, making most of his gains outside of the tackles.
  • Our linebackers as a unit don't get enough love. With the additions of Brandon Magee and Shelley Lyons, the LB's now have the depth to headline our defense this season and beyond.
  • We have the pieces in place physically to be dominant. It's just preventing our own mental mistakes that will be the difference between 11-1 and 7-5.
(Photo Credit: Darryl Webb, East Valley Tribune)

Saturday, August 30, 2008

A Win is a Win is a Win and More Dennis Dome News

I'm not going to lie. I may have dozed off during the 4th quarter of tonight's game. OK, not really. But still...whatever you're going to take from tonight, take it from the first three quarters.

There was enough, regardless, to like and dislike (more to like, really) throughout tonight's 30-13 win over Northern Arizona to get through some post-game analysis here on PFN.

Everything written tonight should of coursed be suffixed by "...against Northern Arizona" of course, but still, I'm a happy blogger/reporter/all-around ASU addict tonight.

Overall, I was very impressed by the effort on all fronts. That's the plain and simple of it. ASU got off to a quick start, something we haven't seen since the Clinton administration and scored a touchdown on their first drive of the football game. This, of course, coming off of a 2007 season where the Devils only mustered 50 1st quarter points.

Rudy Carpenter was tremendous. He's got a touch on his throws that I have not seen him have in game action throughout his career; the main example was the remarkable throw and catch to Mike Jones in the 2nd quarter where it looked like Jones jumped to the upper bowl. His passes were for the most part accurate and timely (22/28 for 388 yards and a score in 2 1/2 quarters). And how about him scampering? We haven't seen that in some time! With 43 yards, he was the Devils' leading rusher! Back during the Keller/Carpenter debate in 2006, we all clamored that Rudy was the better scrambler; that he was able to do more with his legs, and boy, did we see it. The one thing I'll point out is that RC tends to dive forward head first instead of sliding, and if he's going to continue this kind of play, he'd better learn to do the Steve Young slide or he's going to get himself knocked out.

As for the receivers, I'm excited. Chris McGaha didn't show any ill effects from his toe injury, leading me to believe it's completely healed. He ran crisp routes and showed no problems cutting. Mike Jones was Mike Jones (though numerically, he was unbelievable) and it was nice to see Nate Kimbrough make some catches. I'm most excited about Kerry Taylor. His ability to accelerate and get so many YAC on his touchdown catch reminded me a lot of his dad back in his heyday. Kerry looks like he might develop into a nice little deep threat as the season comes along.

Dimitri Nance showed flashes of brilliance. I think he's improved his ability to accelerate off tackle during the offseason, especially when he was sprung to the outside for his 2nd touchdown run. One one occasion, he bowled through the tackles so deftly and strongly that I said out loud that he reminded me of Ryan Torain. Jarrell Woods looked OK and we didn't see enough of Ryan Bass to pass judgment.

I was pleasantly surprised by the offensive line. They handled the NAU pass rush, only allowing RC to get sacked once on a play where he only made a three-step drop. I thought their situational blocking was tremendous and really opened up holes for Nance and gave Rudy plenty of time to move around the pocket. Only two false start penalties (TWO!); one by Adam Tello and the other by backup John MacDonald.

Glad to see that the team has settled on Pierre Singfield as the starting CB across from Omar Bolden. He's clearly the more athletic and heady corner than Terrell Carr and I look forward to see what he can do against faster receivers. I thought Ryan McFoy looked good and, more importantly, comfortable in his new digs at linebacker. Lawrence Guy is super quick. He moves around very easily, especially laterally. And what else is there to say about Dexter Davis? Two sacks tonight, and dare I say, on pace for 24? (No, not yet, is the answer.)

They've got some things to work on obviously. The running game was clearly hampered without Keegan Herring's speed...he participated in pre-game warmups but coach Erickson said afterwards that there was no need for him to rush back. The offensive line obviously has more maturing to do, but after taking only those two procedure penalties, I'm a little less worried on that front. The second team defense got lazy, allowing NAU to score the last 10 points of the game. Nance's case of the dropsies got him in trouble on the third play of the game; luckily Shaun Lauvao was there to fall on it, and Kyle Williams muffed a punt. All of these are minor details that can get fixed quickly.

And they're going to have to. Stanford comes in next week and their defense is certainly no pushover. The offensive line will get their first true test as the Cardinal carry in a pass rush that sacked Lyle Moevao twice, hurried him on countless occasions and forced two bad interceptions.

Only one note on the injury front other then Herring. Angelo Fobbs-Valentino got absolutely run and nailed low from behind on a punt return and was helped off the field. Less importantly, the refs completely missed what was the textbook example of a block in the back on the play. DE said in his postgame that it was an MCL injury and they'll have more info later.

All in all, I'm happy with tonight's performance. Like I said, everything was "against NAU" tonight, but it's a start. Now we'll see what this team can do against Pac-10 caliber talent in six days.

Good news also came from off the field. After the game, I was told that the bubble may actually be ready to go much sooner than expected. It's apparently going to cost "much less" than the original estimate of $900k to $1 million to repair the fabric dome. Definitely a sigh of relief, but in reality, it didn't really change anything for the regular day-to-day operation of the team. As Associate AD for Communications Mark Brand told Kevin McCabe on The Fan AM 1060 on Friday morning, "We have practiced outside for 86 years before this, I think they'll be OK."

Photo Credit: The Arizona Republic

Friday, August 29, 2008

What to watch for: NAU at ASU

Let's get off the bad news of the $1 million worth of damage to the Dennis Dome for a while and focus back on what's good in life: the fact that no one was injured in last night's storm/dome deflation and that ASU football returns to the gridiron in about 25 hours.

My three things to keep a close eye on throughout tomorrow's game against the Lumberjacks:

1) Nance will carry the load. Dimitri Nance had a bust out game against Cal last season in a game just after Ryan Torain went down with his Lisfranc injury, scoring three touchdowns to pace the offense in the big come from behind win over the Golden Bears. Tomorrow, however, might be another coming out party for Nance. With Keegan Herring a game time decision and almost surely very limited in action if he plays and Shaun DeWitty definitely out with that hamstring, Nance will have another chance to show what kind of talent this kid really has. My gut feeling is that Nance will get about 90% of the carries tomorrow night with Jarrell Woods (one of DE's favorite backs) getting the ball in short yardage. Ryan Bass will surely see some action to change the pace of the game and don't be surprised to see James Morrison get some reps in the 4th quarter when ASU has it put away.

2) Who will play better opposite Omar Bolden? JuCo transfer Terrell Carr and walk-on Pierre Singfield have both impressed coaches throughout fall camp and Erickson hasn't settled on a full time starter, so both will get major playing time tomorrow night throughout the game. NAU has some pretty big time receivers so it will be interesting to see how each can display their speed and route shadowing. They might have a little extra time to test out both Carr and Singfield because after NAU gets out of town, Stanford comes, and their pass offense looked terrible last night against Oregon State. This might turn into a two-game tryout.

3) The O-Line should wear "Hello, My Name is..." stickers. The new look offensive line will take the field for the first time. The vets are Paul Fanaika and Shaun Lauvao, so you should know them, but we'll get our first look at Jon Hargis (on offense, at least), Adam Tello and Thomas Altieri. NAU has got some ball hawks and serious tacklers on that team, including K.J. Gerard, so it might get a little unnerving to watch how the new line performs early on. Frankly though, after last season, we should be used to it by now...shouldn't we?
Photo Credit: US Newswire

Live Blog

I got to go over and take a look at the practice field site this morning and as Justin alluded to, it's done. There is really no other way to put it.

There is still no time table of when repairs will take place as the storm came at a rather inconvient (though no time for your $9 million facility to get ripped apart could be considered convient) time with kickoff slated for tomorrow night.

Word is that Sun Devil Stadium is still intact, and for those of you unable to make it out for the game or are out of area to see it on TV, I have a treat for you.

I will be blogging live during the game at This will be our first time trying to get this going so bare with us if there are any glitches we need to repair in the early-going.

We will be bringing you information as the game goes on as well as a breif recap after.

UPDATE: Dennis Dome suffers up to $1 million in damage

ASU Media Relations got in touch with me this morning with an update on the condition of the ASU Practice Facility.

Overhead shots of the dome this morning on Channel 3 show what we learned overnight: the dome has been comlpetely deflated and pieces of the fabric and insulation are strewn about ASU.

According to the Sun Devils media relations office, the main damage to the structure was to the fabric dome that makes up the bubble itself. As you can see from last night's pictures, pieces of it were blown as far away as Packard Stadium.

Repairs to the dome will "cost between $900,000 and $1 million."

There is currently no timeframe to repair the damages. One thing is certain: ASU will not use the facility for the remainder of the 2008 season. ASU officials will meet with contractors in the near future to figure out what to do to rectify the situation.

On a personal note, I've lived in Arizona since 2003 and experienced my first monsoon storm the day after I moved here. That was by far the most violent storm I've seen here by far. North Tempe looks like a war zone, with downed trees and other debris littering the streets. If you're moving around in that area, please practice extreme caution.

Major thanks to the great people at ASU for getting us the facts so we can pass them along to you.

Quick on-the-field update: The Republic is reporting that Keegan Herring is now a game-time decision for tomorrow's opener against Northern Arizona. It was reported earlier that he'd most likely miss the game, but DE said "he's feeling better."

Pictures: Dennis Dome is Done

The dome opened at a cost of $8.4 million in July. Tonight's storm wasted it in the span of about 45 minutes. I was parked by Four Peaks Brewing Company around 9:45 tonight and a gust of wind nearly picked up one side of my car. Power went out from about 8th Street and north at about the same time and in some places has not been restored. The following are my eyewitness pictures from the northeast corners of Arizona State University at around 1:00 AM.

The storm hurled pieces of the Dome across the north campus. We saw pieces of the canvas and of insulation as far away as Sun Angel Stadium and even a sizable chunk lodged in the trees and fence surrounding Packard Stadium.

Lots of praise and thanks to Brendan Gilb and Adam Ostrow, friends of PFN, for helping to gather these photos.

An enormous piece of insulation and canvas on the West side of Rural Road, across the street from Kajikawa and the site of the Dome.

Two pieces of canvas in the trees that surround the exterior fence of Packard Stadium on the corner of Rio Salado and Rural.

A giant piece of insulation lodged in a tree near the box office at Packard Stadium.

The American flag at Karsten Golf Course, battered by the storm.

The Dennis Dome should be in the background there. Taken from just west of Sun Devil Soccer Stadium, near the band fields.

A street lamp about a 1/4 mile away from the Dome, completely blown off its base.

Another tree blown completely off its trunk, next to the above light pole.

Adam next to a giant tree (for perspective) that was completely ripped down by the wind.

Adam and Brendan with a giant piece of roofing on Alpha Drive, presumably from one of the fraternity houses nearby.
This morning's aftermath. (Picture from TipTap)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

BREAKING NEWS: ASU Facility Destroyed in Storm

I've received three separate phone calls and countless text messages over the past 30 minutes regarding the Dennis Dome.

If you're in Tempe, for the love of god, stay inside. One giant storm has already passed through with 70 MPH winds and hurricane-style rain and another one is on its way. This is the worst monsoon storm I've seen in 6 years of living in Arizona.

More importantly, several reports are trickling into me that the bubble has sustained "major, major damage" in tonight's storm. The $9 million indoor facility just opened a month ago.

Stay tuned, I'll try to cull as much info as possible, which might be hard at this time of night.

PS: Lyle Moevao SUCKS.

Update #1: Here's some video from the storm from what looks like just outside Manzanita Hall.

Update #2 (1:37 AM): Just got back from surveying the scene. Pictures soon. Debris is strewn throughout Rural Road and Rio Salado Boulevard. Trees are down, making navigation almost impossible. One thing is clear though. The dome is GONE. GONE.

Nance to Start Against NAU, Herring and DeWitty Out

Usually when you hear that the starting running back as well as a back-up are out for the opener, it means they got in a barroom brawl or threw some trash cans around an ER waiting room.

Well since we're not Georgia, our depth chart will be altered a bit this week due to injury. Keegan Herring and Shaun DeWitty will both miss the NAU game because of right hamstring injuries. According to the East Valley Tribune, our projected depth at running back for the game will look like this:

Dmitri Nance
Jarrell Woods
Ryan Bass
James Morrison (walk-on)

Nance had a breakout game against Cal last season with 3 rushing touchdowns. It's my belief that he'll be the starting running back for a while. The guy ran for 3,173 yards and 41 touchdowns his senior season at Trinity High School in Euless, TX. It's now his time to shine.

(photo credit: Tom Storey)

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Your Weekend Viewing Guide: Week 1

Making its triumphant return to PFN this season is the Weekly Viewing Guide...taking a look at all the games you should pay close attention to every week. The Week 1 edition comes to you a little earlier since there is a Pac-10 game on Thursday and plenty of action to tide you over the long holiday weekend.

Thursday, August 28: Kicking it all off!

Oregon State at Stanford (6:00 PM, ESPN2)
The Pac-10 slate kick starts as early as possible with two teams with plenty of question marks.

Saturday, August 30: Eye-Opener
Virginia Tech at East Carolina (9:00 AM, ESPN)
ECU is is a sleeper pick to crash the BCS out of Conference USA and they open it up with a tough home test from the ACC.

Saturday, August 30: During Your Tailgate

USC at Virginia (12:30 PM, ABC)
The Sanchez/Corp/Mustain train hits the road in their only tune-up before the Ohio State game.

Utah at Michigan (12:30 PM, ESPN)
I firmly believe two things: either Utah or BYU can go undefeated and Utah CAN go into the Big House and beat the youthful Wolverines.

Oklahoma State at Washington State (12:30 PM, FSN)
Mike Gundy is still a man, but now he's 41. And his Cowboys are off to Seattle to play Washington State in Paul Wulff's first game at the helm of the Cougars.

Applachian State at LSU (9:00 AM, ESPN)
Do I really need to explain this one? It's the first time ever the defending FBS and FCS champions will square off.

Saturday, August 30: Set your TiVo!

Michigan State at California (5:00 PM, ABC)
The enigmas of the Big 10 and the Pac-10 face off to answer some questions about each.

Illinois vs. Missouri (5:30 PM, ESPN)
Never before has this rivalry actually had national title implications, but this year's version will be high scoring and have plenty of early-season impact.

Monday, September 1: Happy Labor Day!
Fresno State at Rutgers (1:00 PM, ESPN)
Fresno State is a trendy pick to make a run in the WAC, but they'll face a stiff test week one at The State University of New Jersey.

Tennessee at UCLA (5:00 PM, ABC)
Kevin Craft takes the helm for the Bruins to start the Rick Neuheisel era...and it's not to be easy to open with a win, that's for sure.

Friday, August 22, 2008

FSN Arizona goes Olympics on everyone's ass

Watching tape delayed Summer Olympic action from Beijing has been thrilling. Or something.

Speaking of tape delay, FSN Arizona has decided that it's time to party like its 1994.

Our regional sports network, which has given us such gems of television genius as the one pictured to the left, has decided to everyone's delight that they'll be showing the ASU/NAU game. I'm sure it'll be Trey Bender (no, not THIS Bender) calling the game. I've worked with Trey, and he really does know his stuff.

Except for one problem: The D'Backs have a FAIRLY important game that evening against division rival Los Angeles and the network has Washington/Oregon as the national excruciatingly-late-night-for-people-on-the-East-Coast game of the week.

So here's what's up: If the Diamondbacks game get's wrapped up by kickoff (which wont happen), then the game goes in its entirety live. When the Snakes/Dodgers game runs past 7:00 PM, the tape delay begins, and the ASU game still will be broadcast in its entirety, just immediately after Arizona finishes up at Chase Field. The game may get pushed back by a few minutes if the game is remarkably quick, but will kick off "no later than 7:22 PM."

So we've got that going for us. Which is nice.

After that, Washington/Oregon will then run on tape delay, and frankly, I'm going to stay up and watch that one in it's entirety because it may end up being the most interesting game of the weekend.

I guess it's better than nothing, especially because I'm sure the game will get rerun on FCS throughout the country (Cox 170-172 here in the Valley) and Devils fans throughout America will get to see it.

Photo Credit: FSN Arizona

Sun Devil Alumni w/Pedroia in Chicago

This picture was taken the the Red Sox were in town facing the White Sox a couple of weeks ago. Special thanks to Bryan Young for the photo.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Robinson Becoming Comfortable With Offense

Sitting inside "the bubble" yesterday (we have to come up with a better name for that facility) I couldn't help but notice the strides freshman receiver Gerell Robinson has made since the beginning of camp.

His athleticism has been on full display since the first day of fall practice, but now his intelligence for the game is beginning to catch up with his freak skills.

I got a chance to talk to him after practice and he said he is becoming much more comfortable with the offense and the different schemes they are running.

"I am the point where I know when I mess up right when it happens as opposed to not knowing anything about it until the coaches tell me afterwards."

On the defensive side of the ball junior Terell Carr has also come a long way in camp and looks to be solidifying himself as the best choice for starter in the corner spot opposite Omar Bolden. Suffering from a case of the drops earlier in camp, Carr has been more advantageous with his time including an impressive pick yesterday that elicited a chorus of "Atta way T-Carr" shouts from his teammates in the secondary.

The team will get their first taste of Sun Devil stadium this fall during the "Fan Appreciation Night" scrimmage at 7:00.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

New Feature: Pac-10 Power and QB Rankings

Pitchfork Nation introduces our newest feature: the PFN weekly Power Poll.

Every Monday, we'll have insight and analysis on the peformance of each team in the Pac-10 and then adjust our rankings accordingly after every week of action. It'll be especially interesting to watch these early on, as four teams get their Pac-10 seasons started before the calendar turns to September.

Just like the power polls you see on ESPN and other sites, these aren't about where they necessarily are in the standings or where we think they'll finish; these preseason rankings are my thoughts on how ready these teams are for the regular season to start.
So, without further ado, here's the preseason edition of the PFN Power Rankings.

1) USC Trojans
Mark Sanchez is already back in practice after his nerve rattling injury last week but Joe McKnight's injuries are a bit unnerving. However, they've still got the most dominating defense in the conference.
Next game: August 30 at Virginia Cavaliers

2) California Golden Bears
It's still a toss up between Kevin Riley and Nate Longshore for the starting QB spot, but it's a nice decision for Jeff Tedford to have, because both will be good this year. Jahvid Best is geared up to lead the offense. The offensive line has looked stout in camp.
Next game: August 30 vs. Michigan State Spartans

3) Arizona State Sun Devils
Injuries are starting to become a huge concern but Rudy Carpenter's throws have looked strong throughout camp. Dexter Davis and Luis Vasquez have looked strong and are looking to improve on an already outstanding 2007.
Next game: August 30 vs. Northern Arizona Lumberjacks

4) Oregon Ducks
Jaison Williams has the makings of being this year's stud receiver in the Pac but there are still questions around the running back spot and at quarterback, where they're having to replace two top flight players. Defense looks like it could be the best in the conference but is not game tested.
Next Game: August 30 vs. Washington Huskies

5) Arizona Wildcats
When Nic Grigsby hasn't been punching teammates, he hasn't looked too bad in camp. Wilile Tuitama is developing a nice rapport with his receivers, but if you believe that the defense should be ahead of the offense at this point of fall camp, then UA has a problem.
Next Game: August 30 vs. Idaho Vandals

6) Stanford Cardinal
All three quarterbacks have looked solid throughout camp, giving Jim Harbaugh a bit of a decision to make, but he'll settle on Pritchard. Toby Gerhart and Anthony Kimble could be a solid one-two punch but their youth is a question mark. Pat Maynor leads a very experienced and physical linebacking corps.
Next Game: August 28 vs. Oregon State Beavers

7) UCLA Bruins
Ben Olson goes down, leaving two very inexperienced quarterbacks, so Rick Neuheisel and Norm Chow go with the transfer Kevin Craft. Kahlil Bell is making a remarkably quick return from surgery but there are holes everywhere.
Next Game: September 1 vs. Tennessee Volunteers

8) Oregon State Beavers
Lyle Moevao, the biggest pocket statue in the Pac-10 this side of Andrew Walter, is forced to take the reins as Sean Canfield recovers from his injury. Remaining a question is who will take over as the featured RB and who will emerge as a leader in an inexperienced front 7 on defense.
Next Game: August 28 at Stanford Cardinal

9) Washington Huskies
Jake Locker is still a little bothered by an injury 10 days before the season opener and the defense's leading tackler gets booted off the team. Enough said.
Next Game: August 30 at Oregon Ducks

10) Washington State Cougars
Never good to be the leader in the clubhouse when it comes to players in trouble with the law.
Next Game: August 30 vs. Oklahoma State Cowboys (in Seattle)

Morning Injury Report

First off, before we get to today's brief injury update, make sure you listen to the interview from KLAC with Rudy that's posted below. I'm right with everyone about how Petros Papadakis (fat guy in red shirt) is a toolbag on FSN broadcasts and to an extent off the air as well (I twice spotted him wearing a Hello Kitty backpack in the press box), but I actually think he holds his own pretty well as a radio host.

Also, don't forget that ASU's annual Fan Appreciation Day and "end of camp" scrimmage is tomorrow night at Sun Devil Stadium. If you haven't had a chance to sneak out to practice, here's your chance to check the team out before August 30. Practice starts at 7:00 P.M.

Anyway, injury problems abound...thanks to the Republic and the Tribune for the tips.

The count is now 9...that's the number of consecutive practices WR Chris McGaha has now missed. Nick alluded to being seriously concerned about that toe, and now I am too. While the depth at wide receiver isn't questionable, it's surely inexperienced.

Calling all centers...Garth Gerhart is now banged up. He's battling an ankle problem the week after first string C Thomas Altieri suffered a mild concussion. He's day to day.

And the depth continues to wane...OT Matt Hustad is out for at least a week with an unspecified knee injury. Tom Njunge, who's never played a snap of right tackle in his career, is filling in at both offensive tackle spots.

That hammie is lingering...RB Shaun DeWitty missed another practice because of it. He's still joined on the sidelines by WR Brandon Smith who's hampered by the hamstring himself.

He says it's not serious...but as a guy who suffered a back injury during my hockey career, it still hurts. S Rodney Cox left practice yesterday with back pain, but DE and Cox both say it's not a serious problem.

(Photo Credit: The Wizard of Odds)