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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    ASU’s lack of protection on Arizona’s radar

    When facing an offense that poses as many threats as does the No. 13 ASU football team, it is important to find a weakness and try to exploit it.

    Though the Sun Devils have had great offensive success in the Pacific 10 Conference – they are second in scoring offense (33.3 points per game) and third in pass offense (260.2 yards allowed per game) – there is one glaring offensive statistic that blemishes their résumé.

    ASU has struggled immensely to protect quarterback Rudy Carpenter, who has been sacked 49 times through 11 games, the most in the Pac-10 and third-most in Division I-A.

    “”We have had some trouble protecting the quarterback, there is no question about it,”” said ASU head coach Dennis Erickson. “”Obviously, we haven’t protected well, but we have done everything pretty well offensively.””

    Arizona has had issues with quarterback pressure this season, as the Wildcats have reached the opposing signal-caller only 25 times, the third-lowest total in the Pac-10.

    The Sun Devils’ struggles with their protection have been somewhat encouraging.

    The Wildcats aren’t just focusing on getting to Carpenter – they are also recognizing the importance of holding the Sun Devils to a punt following a sack, which is something opposing teams haven’t been able to do.

    Though the sack has haunted the Sun Devils, they have also managed to convert for first downs with regularity.

    “”We have been able to run the football with success for the most part,”” Erickson said. “”We have made some good plays, able to run the football, and control the clock some.””

    The Wildcats hope that if they do get to Carpenter, that will signal the end of ASU’s drives.

    “”We don’t really need extra motivation to get sacks,”” said defensive lineman Lionel Dotson. “”Everyone on the D-line wants to get sacks already. It does help to know that they give up a lot of sacks, but we don’t know how they all happened. We just need to focus on playing hard every play.””

    Not much is more detrimental to a drive than sacks.

    The hits disorient quarterbacks, rush huddles on subsequent plays and change coaches’ playcalling. Not to mention the loss of down and yardage.

    “”At times, it is tough to get sacked and get going for the next play,”” said UA quarterback Willie Tuitama, who has been sacked 27 times this season. “”Throughout the course of the game, it starts to wear on you and you can get kind of jittery. It just depends on the player and how they respond to it.””

    UA offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes said he thought it was incredible that the Sun Devils are able to maintain such a steady offensive balance through their sack troubles.

    “”Normally a sack is a big-time setback,”” Dykes said. “”You look at Arizona State’s team and it surprises you that they have had as many sacks as they had and they have been able to overcome it. When they get into a third-and-long situation, it just seems like they have someone there to make a play.””

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