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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

What could have been

Alan Walsh/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Alan Walsh
Alan Walsh/Arizona Daily Wildcat

Three years ago, ASU appeared to have reeled in a recruit who would solidify the football program at the quarterback position for years to come. His name was Nick Foles.

But after a coaching change and further recruiting at his position ensued, the shaggy-haired prospect chose to decommit and sign instead with Michigan State. A year later the 6-foot-5, 235-pound quarterback wound up in Tucson. Since receiving his starting opportunity this season, Foles has become one of the most consistent quarterbacks in the country with a completion percentage of 69 percent.

“”We pursued (Foles) early on and he had a scholarship offer from us,”” said ASU head coach Dennis Erickson. “”But we ended up committing three quarterbacks in that class and so he decided he didn’t want to come (to ASU).””

Erickson has since taken notice of the impact of letting Foles go. While the sophomore has excelled 100 miles south of Tempe, the Sun Devils are far from consistent at quarterback and have seen injuries force the use of three different signal callers through the course of the season.

Once again, this week Erickson finds himself questioning who will start Saturday.

After suffering a bicep injury three weeks ago, nine-game starter Danny Sullivan has missed ASU’s last two games, both of which the Sun Devils lost, and is in jeopardy of missing the Territorial Cup game against Arizona this Saturday.

Unsure of the extent of Sullivan’s injury, redshirt sophomore Samson Szakacsy is Erickson’s other option for Saturday.

In his first career start in a 23-13 loss to UCLA last weekend, Szakacsy threw for 197 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

“”Both quarterbacks will both be working with the (first team),”” Erickson said in a teleconference Tuesday. “”I just need to see how both of them perform in practice this week before I make a final decision on (the starter).””

While Sullivan has more experience than the younger Szakacsy, the sophomore earned the respect of his teammates through his performance last Saturday, and various newspapers reported ASU players praising the young quarterback and supporting his potential start in this weekend’s rivalry game.

Though no true starter at quarterback has been named as of yet, the uncertainly has done little to hinder the Arizona defense.

“”(ASU does), for the most part, the same things, so it really doesn’t matter which quarterback is in there (Saturday),”” said UA defensive coordinator Mark Stoops. “”For the most part, their offense is still the same, so we’ll prepare the same way.””

While the Wildcats’ defense should have little trouble stopping what has been a rather stagnant ASU passing attack this season — it is eighth in the Pacific 10 Conference with just 215 yards per game and 15 touchdowns — the Sun Devils will need to employ more rigorous tactics to put a halt to an Arizona passing attack that ranks second in the conference.

With Foles’ strong and accurate arm guiding the Wildcats’ spread offense, Arizona has torched opponents for over 247 yards per game through the air and 18 touchdowns.

“”(Arizona’s) real hard to deal with because they stretch you out,”” Erickson said. “”Sometimes when they have their receivers out there and you have your linebackers in there it can be a mismatch, and that’s why they do it. But they tend to execute (the spread offense) really well, and their receivers aren’t just good receivers, they’re also tremendous blockers.

“”You just have to try and be good tacklers and not let them make big plays against you,”” Erickson added.

Erickson and his squad are hoping Saturday won’t come as a continuation of a season that has already proven disappointing at 4-7.

After opening the year with a pair of non-conference wins, ASU fell three points short of beating Georgia on the road and then proceeded to drop six of its next eight games, four of them by double digits.

Saturday will mark the end of the Sun Devils’ season as well as senior day for 23 ASU players. Emotions are expected to be high.

“”This season has been a tough one,”” Erickson said. “”I think the biggest problem we have in going through a season like this are the (games) that you lose that are close, like Georgia. But it’s hard, because we’ve played well defensively but then haven’t been very productive offensively, and that brings up lots of frustration.

“”It’s been a frustrating season, but we’ve got some great seniors who have worked very hard, so going out this weekend against a great team like Arizona is just another opportunity for them to play again.””

— Bobby Stover is a material science and engineering senior. He can be reached at sports@wildcat.arizona.edu

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