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October 7, 2010

Sun Devils desperately searching for win

Like a group of staunch environmentalists, football coaches do their fair share of recycling.

While they may not always be found separating their papers from their plastics, coaching verbiage is spun round and round again, leaders of programs hammering home goals and forecasts for the future -- all the while making old nuggets of wisdom look like new plans for success.

Dennis Erickson, though, is done recycling. The Arizona State coach is fresh out of words to transform.

"Bottom line, we've got to win a game," Erickson said Thursday after ASU (2-3, 0-2) made its final preparations for Saturday's game at Washington (2-2, 1-0). "We can talk about everything that's happened, everything that's transpired for the past month or last week, but the bottom line is we've got to win a football game."

It's brass-tax, black-and-white time for the Sun Devils. All the excitement created by an obviously improved offense and a trio of oh-so-close defeats has blown away, the last remnants perhaps carried away by this week's storm that ravaged the Valley. Now, only winning will blow new life into Tempe.

"They want to get it done, they know they can get it done, and now we've got to get it done," Erickson said. "That's the next step for us."

That next step must happen Saturday if ASU hopes to play in the postseason for the first time since 2007. A loss to the Huskies would require the Sun Devils to win five of their final six games to become bowl eligible with a schedule that still includes games at Cal, at USC, at No. 9 UA and a home date with No. 16 Stanford. More than that, ASU could undoubtedly benefit from the confidence that would come from its first victory over an FBS team since Oct. 17, 2009, which came over Washington.

"Our backs are against the wall," junior quarterback Steven Threet said. "At 2-3 it's the not the start to the season that we wanted or expected, but it's the situation that we're in and we're just going to come out and play hard on Saturday."

Turnovers and red-zone inefficiencies have been among the biggest bugaboos during the team's current three-game losing streak, and ASU spent a good portion of this week's allotted practice time attempting to fine-tune the latter.

"We practiced [red-zone situations] a lot; I don't know if we've been at midfield all week," Erickson mused. "Doing it here and doing it on a game day is another thing. If we can slow down turnovers, that's key. If we turn it over and give up the play, it's going to be the same story."

Anchoring the line

While the Sun Devil offensive line has looked like a game of musical chairs at times this season, junior center Garth Gerhart has kept a seat warm throughout the campaign.

Gerhart has started all five games and has taken every snap except for in the second half of blowout wins over Portland State and Northern Arizona. His presence in the midst of injuries to line mates around him has been a major reason for ASU's dramatic improvement in the running game, where it currently ranks 56th nationally (167.6 yards per game).

"Garth is our most valuable guy there," Erickson said. "He runs the show. He's a leader. He's the leader of that offensive front and one of the big leaders of our offense. It's good to have him back at that position because he knows what's going on."

The starting line will look the same Saturday as it did against Oregon State, with junior Aderious Simmons at right tackle, sophomore Andrew Samson at right guard, Gerhart, junior Mike Marcisz at left guard and redshirt freshman Evan Finkenberg at left tackle.

Junior defensive tackle Lawrence Guy (illness) returned to practice Thursday and will play Saturday. Freshman running back Deantre Lewis (shoulder) participated fully and will resume a full load out of the backfield against Washington, Erickson said.


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