Monday, October 09, 2006

 

Taking On Troy


How does one go about beating a juggernaut like USC? Texas used a quarterback from another galaxy, but those seem to be in short supply these days. Where do we mere mortals go in this situation? If Scott Bordow were coach, the Devils would simply stay in Tempe because they don't have the talent to match up with the Trojans. Well fuck him, let's be rational about this thing.

Devils On Offense
The Trojans have a stout defense that most concur is better than the one they fielded in 2005. They run a 3-4 base with size and speed everywhere. The four linebackers means even fewer catches across the middle for Zach Miller and there will probably be a healthy dose of pressure on Rudy Carpenter, especially through the sieve created by right tackle Andrew Carnahan's torn ACL. That, of course, will require a ton of running from The Train, consecutive game 100-yard rusher Ryan Torain, especially on draw plays. By the way Dirk, a draw play isn't something you save until it's third and a country mile. Nothing says "I quit, let's just punt" like the draw play on third down and double digits. And another thing- play action is especially effective when it's a realistic running situation and you have a legitimate running threat- we have one of these now in Torain, a guy who gets the whole left-right-left-right (by that I mean walking) concept. No reason to start every series at 2nd and 10.

It's going to take some steady running, opportune passing, and a bit of trickeration to trip up USC. Pete Carroll and his staff have figured out Dirk's style (DK's 0 for life against the Men of Troy), so he can't just sit back and run the same set of plays. If the Devils pass on the first play of the game, you can bet on a long night at the bar for the Devil faithful. USC's defensive speed means it will be tough for Torain to make long yards by turning the corner on the outside, so it will have to be a ball controlling, grind it out, run between the tackles kind of day on offense. If Torain, Keegan Herring, and others can prove to be effective here, the passing game will open up in the deep middle where inexperienced sefeties will be roaming the secondary in single coverage, but that only leads to a whole set of problems for the Devils. Apparently ASU is having problems throwing, catching, route running, and getting their timing in synch. The passing game has been so disparaging that Koetter actually said in last Saturday's post game press conference that "completing a pass might be a good goal for us next week." Eek. Fun stat! Sun Devil Law # 41 states that there are 4,481 passing yards to Pasadena. At 33 yards per game, that will only take 136 games. Rose Bowl 2018, baby!

Carpenter and the receiving corps have apparently been meeting after practice working on their laundry list of problems, and hopefully this wil transfer to their on the field play. In an effort to feng-shui Carpenter's brain, Koetter made him watch a tape of all 64 of his completed passes of thirty yards or more. If this doesn't work, I say put him on the spot and throw him under the bus in public and on camera like some folks do.

Devils On Defense
Oh boy, here we go. Pete Carroll has already proved he isn't above trickeration against inferior teams by using a fake field goal against Washington, so ASU ought to be on the lookout for such horseplay. We were burned by a Reggie Bush TD pass on our last trip to the Coliseum (not to mention a rushing TD and a punt return for 6), so anything is fair game. With a freshman quarterback under center, the Devil D needs to show multiple looks, apply a bend but don't break philosophy, and blitz at opportune times. Blitzing from corner and safety could confuse young Booty and cause him to be erratic, or it could give him the opportunity to burn the inept ASU corners once they're stuck in single coverage. Chris McFoy is out (really wanted to see his little bro pop him just once really hard over the middle), Dewayne Jarrett is still questionable, and Steve Smith is looking doubtful for Saturday's matchup, but I'm still concerned at how ASU matches up at wideout. Remember that two years ago none of knew who Jarrett was and then he burned the Devils for 167 yards and two TD's. I haven't really watched the USC running backs enough to know how dangerous they can be, but I'm sure they're talented. The D-line and linebackers need to take this opportunity to make a statement that, despite current trends, this is NOT last year's 114th ranked defensive unit. Stuff the run and make the kid QB try to beat you.

Special Teams
Terry Richardson, Terry Richardson, Terry Richardson. He started last year's USC game off with a first quarter bang, we can only hope he can do it again.

X-Factors
With Rudy. Fucking. Burgess' status sill a question mark for Saturday( yes, he's always a factor), unexpected wrath of God-type interference could include but not be limited to rain (30% chance), USC's wide receiver health, USC's youth on offense, and the fact that USC feels the need to make a statement since many pollsters have now dropped them a few pegs. The Coliseum crowd may affect this team's fragile psyche, but then again it may be beyond repair before they even run out of the tunnel. Of course, the same was said last year before finishing 5-1, so all hope is not lost on the season.


Outlook
I'm hopeful, but not optimistic. The Devils might cover the 19.5 point spread, but I wouldn't bet on it.

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