Sunday, September 03, 2006


The Dust Has Settled: my rational analysis of game #1

ASU's lackluster Thursday night victory raised a hefty amount of questions and even answered a few. I'll address as many as I can think of.

The field and stadium looked great. A raging student section and midfield Sparky were the highlights, and it's great to have absolutely no affiliation with the Arizona Cardinals. While students hate the wristband policies implemented by the red-tape machine that is ASU, it looks a hell of a lot better without everyone crowding into the best sections and leaving the other ones looking sparse and sometimes empty. Bravo, kids. I'm only going on hearsay, but apparently the band sounds leagues better with their new director. The Richmond area alumni association consists of myself and no one else, so it proved too difficult to get sound on the game. Overall it looked like a great gameday atmosphere.

Derron Ware
That kid looked great, and a year of offseason workouts has been beneficial to his game. He led the team with eight tackles on the night, including three sacks and another for a loss. This Michigan State transfer should have switched to linebacker years ago, as he looked completely comfortable and competent on the field. I can't really say that about any of the other LB's, but more on that in a moment.

The Defensive Line
Considering two of the top athletes of this unit weren't in pads on Thursday, these guys looked outstanding. There was constant pressure in NAU's backfield all night which is something that couldn't be said last year, even in our cupcake opener against Temple when the Devil D recorded ZERO sacks against arguably the worst team in division 1-A. Kyle Caldwell is back to the promising form he showed in 2004 before injuries limited him to mere mortal status, and Dexter Davis has lived up to the talk that occurred during fall camp. Mike Marquardt demands attention at DT and is a rather quick fella for a 300 pounder, and his production means that Jordan Hill won't be double teamed on every down. It's been a long time since I haven't had anything bad to say regarding the defensive line.

Rudy. Fucking. Burgess.
What can't this guy do? Seriously?! His value at tailback has been proven, and he returns to his natural wide receiver position by leading the team with seven catches for 112 yards. The only other wide receiver to even catch a pass was Terry Richardson, who had only one. Rudy was also the gunner on special teams and he made one of the best hits of the evening with a high-flying early smack on the Lumberjack return man. It was totally worth the 15 yards to see that play. While he had a fumble, it was a helmet-on-ball contact from behind, and those are the toughest ones to hang on to. All is forgiven since Burgess is the fucking man, and I'd be willing to bet this was his last fumble on the season.

Ryan Torain
He's a load at 220 pounds, and he's not really the big bruising type. His rushing numbers aren't really what I was hoping to see from this JuCo transfer, but he had three big catches out of the backfield for 58 yards and a score. Way to pad Carp's stats, buddy. He could be a major contributor as an every-down back should Keegan Harring not be able to perform, but as several have already pointed out his pad level is a bit too high. If he lowers his shoulders just a tad, he probably increases the YPC number substantially and adds a touchdown to his statline.

No blocks, none returned fo big gains. Quick releases and good hang times. You wouldn't think these things are such precious commodities, but after performances in years past this was actually a grand accomplishment.

Other positive notes of interest include Herring's Reggie Bush-like TD scamper, the defense's attitude, Herring's bad-ass block that broke the defender's arm, and I saw my friend Pat on TV yelling at someone. It was a win for the Devils, and I have to keep telling myself that in the face of what looks like a probable 6-6 season due to some of the following reasons.

Pass distribution
As mentioned above, the ASU wide receiving corps excluding R.F.B. totaled 1 catch for ten yards. Coach Koetter has been known in recent years for keeping the play selection very bland when facing weak OOC opponents, but I feel this reflects on Rudy Carpenter more than it does Dirk Koetter. Note I used the term "bland" and NOT "vanilla" as every message board honk and hack journalist has done over the last few days. The offense is most effective when the ball is distributed to many diferent weapons; let's hope Rudy C. isn't locking in on Burgess because most D-1 secondarys can read that and pick off the passes. Mike Jones has been a stud in practices and was one of the offensive MVP's in spring ball, but he was no where to be found on Thursday, even with Jamaal Lewis' suspension. I guess he looked so good because he ws practicing against ASU's corners. Speaking of which...

Ugh. How many years have we gone over this topic in Tempe? NAU's Alex Watson looked like Calvin Johnson going for 12 catches and 206 yards. I'm going to repeat this, as I feel it bears repeating. NAU's Alex Watson went for 12 catches and 206 yards. Watson isn't exactly a household name, he's not even on a division 1-A roster for Chrissakes. Chris Baloney's pick-for-six saved the day, but that was the only highlight for this bunch that wasn't one for NAU. Justin Tryon, whom was described by Koetter as being the most consistent corner in practices, was consistently BAD. Keno Walter-White proved he doesn't belong on a football field, as he left me wishing for the likes of Josh Golden. Yecch.

Offensive Line
They were, in a word, offensive. They looked confused and sloppy, and thanks to the ASU policy of scheduling at least one high school team each season the Devils dodged a bullet. ASU had first and goal at the NAU FOUR YARD LINE and failed to score. I place this squarely on the Hell Hogs. Some will argue that coach K would have passed the ball at least once during a real game, but it would be nice to reach the line to gain on the gound, especialy when te distance is one pace and the opponent is (supposedly) physically overmatched. When ASU has a real opponent and a lead late in the game, they need to be able to run the ball. I guess R.F.B. will have to do this, too. The question is which unit does he rescue- the tailbacks or the o-line? The fatties up front need the most help, that's for sure. Homer apologists will also tell you that NAU's paranormal 3-3-5 defensive alignment is confusing for the players, but they've had eight months to prepare for it. The coaches can be held partially accountable on this one but the play in the trenches was still inexcusable for a group with that level of experience.

NAU's Goal Line Stand
See above, plus this excellent analysis from someone who actually knows something about football.

Barrett played adequately, but everyone else was wretched. Freshman Ryan McFoy was the one that fell on one of Watson's big gains, and Catanese was the one that leaped waaaay too early on Watson's other gamebreaker. Zach Cat was surprisingly absent after a productive 2005, and I really can't say anything more than that because I hardly saw him play.

Young and lost. Mike Nixon needs to go back to the Dodgers and the rest of them look like they could use a reshirt year. Why the quick departure Adam?

Herb Sendek was interviewed at halftime.
This is a bush league tactic done by unnamed villians. When things are going bad, change the topic to another sport. Pure BS, and I'm pissed it happened at Sun Devil Stadium.

Maybe 6-6 is a little harsh, but after watching Oregon and USC this weekend, anything better than 10-2 looks rather daunting.

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