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October 13, 2009

Erickson: Limiting mistakes critical moving forward

Usually, when Arizona State football coach Dennis Erickson is asked about an injury, it's about one of his players. That wasn't the case Monday, though, as everyone wanted to know how he was recovering from the weekend.

It all went down during the third quarter of ASU's 27-14 victory at Washington State, when sophomore wide receiver Gerell Robinson was pushed into his 62-year-old coach, who was busy watching a route on the other side of the field.

"Being the great athlete I am, I wasn't able to get out of the way," Erickson said with a laugh.

Senior quarterback Danny Sullivan said Erickson was "a little loopy" afterwards but Erickson received some treatment on the side and all was well.

Listening to Erickson, though, it sounds like he feels lucky to have escaped Pullman, Wash. with both his health and a victory. But looking forward, Erickson said his team can ill-afford to repeat Saturday's six-turnover performance.

"If we turn it over like that we won't beat anybody," Erickson said. "That's ridiculous. Ball security is job security, that's what we try to tell our players."

Sullivan accounted for half of ASU's giveaways, throwing three interceptions, and admitted two of them were results of ill-advised decisions. He finished 19-of-29 for 169 yards and a touchdown.

Despite his woes, it doesn't appear like anything has changed on the quarterback front. Erickson said freshman Brock Osweiler will play Saturday against Washington, but he's not sure as to when.

Osweiler played three first-half series against WSU, none of which ended in points for ASU.

On ASU's third drive of the game, Sullivan promptly threw a first-down pick to WSU's Louis Bland before being replaced by Osweiler. Sullivan returned near the end of the first half, executing the two-minute drill to perfection, rattling off a quick 9-play, 78-yard touchdown scoring drive.

So how does a team overcome six turnovers, anyway? Defense.

"There's no easy games anymore," Sullivan said. "We've got to be able to play four quarters of football through and through. We got away with it last week because the defense played so well, but we can't do it any other week now."

The Sun Devils created four turnovers and set a school record with 12 sacks. But Erickson was very realistic about the effort, which came against a subpar WSU offensive line.

Erickson said sophomore strongside end James Brooks looks like he's catching up to game speed after being suspended for the first three games of the season. Brooks and sophomore defensive tackle Lawrence Guy each registered 2.5 sacks. Senior weakside end Dexter Davis also recorded his first sack of the season and pulled down one of ASU's two interceptions.

"Don't get me wrong, we rushed the passer really good," Erickson said. "Our front four did an extremely good job, but Washington State's beat up in the offensive front. I'm not taking anything away from the sacks that we had, by any means, but it's relative. Twelve sacks is a lot of sacks. That's hard to get against air sometimes."

The defensive line will counter a more formidable opponent this weekend in UW. Erickson said the Huskies' front five looks much more physical under o-line coach Dan Cozzetto, who jumped ship from ASU last year to join coach Steve Sarkisian's staff.

But behind the offensive line is where UW's greatest threat thrives, as junior quarterback Jake Locker has established himself as the conference's elite quarterback.

"He's got a big-time arm," Erickson said. "But the biggest improvement is how accurate he is when he throws it. He's throwing the deep ball way better. He's a way better quarterback than he was two years ago."

Erickson also praised Locker's running ability, saying, "Once he gets into the secondary, you're not catching him."

Locker has completed 57.1 percent of his passes while averaging 237.2 passing yards per game. He has thrown for 10 touchdowns and four interceptions. On the ground, he has amassed 199 yards and four touchdowns.


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