Sunday, September 14, 2008

Sometimes, Rock and Rollers Know The Right Questions to Ask

"Where do we go...where do we go now?" -Guns 'n Roses

In their hit song Sweet Child O' Mine (which of course, is one of the top three GNR songs of all time and if you dispute that, I will fight you), Guns 'n Roses asks the question "Where do we go now?" 15 times. Yes, I counted.

As I listened to that song on my way home from Glendale and the Cardinals game today, I really couldn't help but think about last night's game.

Where, in fact, do we go now?

24 hours ago almost to the minute we all watched ASU and UNLV kick off. Three painful hours later, the Devils were losers to a team that had won only one of their last 22 road contests. Like it or not, ASU is now inexplicably 2-1 and now out of the AP Top 25.

And it's not as if it's going to get any easier. Under the assumption that the Devils were going to go 3-0 to start the season, this next four game stretch; Georgia, at Cal, at USC and Oregon; would make or break 2008. So many publications had picked this Saturday's game as the non-conference game of the year. Now, it's been reduced to a game where both teams are having to scramble to regain legitimacy in the eyes of the pollsters and pundits.

So, where do we go now, Rudy Carpenter?

Our senior signal caller, who looked so much more comfortable than in past seasons moving around and throwing on the run so far this season, looked timid and not confident. His throws were off, his timing was off and, worst yet, I feel like Rudy wasn't looking down his receivers well enough. We'll never know what he was looking at when he threw that 2nd quarter interception, but it certainly wasn't the correct receiver, that's for sure. I have no idea where he was mentally on the 3rd down in overtime, but all I know is that I saw Chris McGaha streak right by me ready to make the catch for at least a 1st down while RC threw the ball out of the end zone.

I can only hope we can chalk this up to a bad game for Rudy. It just seems as if he's progressed so nicely up to this season, and with South Carolina able to moderately pick apart Georgia's secondary with their pedestrian passing game, Rudy and his receivers could have a fun time with the Dawgs corners and safeties.

Where do we go now, running game?

I'll go ahead and say it finally. Dimitri Nance has taken a major step back this season. What impressed me so much about Nance last season was his fearlessness in hitting the line. He wasn't the bowling ball that Ryan Torain was, but he had the same nose for gaps that he did. I feel like Nance has slowed a bit when hitting the line, and it showed in the overtime. One positive I can take from last night was that Shaun DeWitty has really proven himself as a nifty pass catcher. DeWitty has some moves that we haven't seen taking the ball on screens and I feel like it should be worked into the game plan more.

But are we really at the point where opponents need not fear ASU's ground game without Keegan Herring? Arguably, the Devils most dynamic running play was Keegan's first run of the season, the 19-yard scamper to set up the first touchdown against Stanford.

In short, ASU needs you, Keegs.

Where do we go now, secondary and linebackers?

I witnessed so many mental lapses last night that my frustration ended up turning into mere acceptance. Whenever Omar Clayton was flushed out of the pocket, it seemed like our corners would drop their coverage a bit. Clayton completed 19 passes and I'll have to go look back at the tape for an exact count, but he was able to hit so many of his receivers over the middle and near the sidelines after having some extra time to move around.

On the play where Clayton hit Phillip Payne for the game-tying score, another receiver split wide right was completely uncovered until a split second before the snap when Rodney Cox finally noticed there was a free man wide. The linebackers were so intent on stopping Frank Summers at the line (which they couldn't do anyway) that they were nervously pinching all night in anticipation, letting slot guys sneak into the middle for 6 and 7 yard dink and dunk completions.

No answer for you here, folks. Why? Because it only gets tougher.

Where do we go now, Dennis Erickson?

That play calling certainly left something to be desired. Here's the thing, coach; when Dirk Koetter was here, and ASU lost dramatically, it seemed like his teams forgot to get up off the mat. 2005 USC and LSU come immediately to mind. Remember what happened after the loss to LenDale White and Reggie Bush? The Devils laid a huge egg against Oregon and then fell behind 45-7 to Stanford before RC almost saved the day.

This is where Dennis has to prove to everyone that his teams get up and take their anger out on the next week's opponent instead of the "woe is us" attitude we grew so accustomed to between 2001 and 2006.

Where do we go now, Arizona State Sun Devils?

The only place that we can. On to the Bulldogs.

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