Edge: Challenge of road matchup too much for ASU

Published On:
Friday, October 31, 2008
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Quarterback

ASU senior Rudy Carpenter was not sharp against Oregon last week, passing for just 146 yards and two interceptions.

Even though he still ranks third in the Pac-10 Conference in passing yards per game (231.4), Carpenter’s ankle injury has definitely hindered his accuracy and effectiveness and will likely linger for the rest of the season.

Oregon State junior Lyle Moevao has been very dependable so far in his first full season as the Beavers’ starting quarterback. He leads the Pac-10 in passing yards per game (254.1) and has thrown for 13 touchdowns.

Carpenter says he’s fine, but his decreasing numbers since the injury sure don’t make it seem that way.

Edge OSU

Running backs

ASU’s running game gained more than 100 yards for the first time in more than a month against Oregon last week, mostly because freshman Ryan Bass gained 56 yards on 10 carries during second half, garbage time.

The Sun Devils’ rushing yards per game (87) still ranks ninth in the conference and 114th of 119 in the nation.

OSU freshman Jacquizz Rodgers burst onto the scene when he torched then – No. 1 USC for 186 rushing yards in the Beavers’ 27-21 upset of the Trojans on Sept. 25.

While he stands at just 5 feet 7 inches, Rodgers currently ranks first in the Pac-10 in rushing yards per game (116).

Bass looks poised have a breakout second half of the season, but Rodgers has already proven he is a premier runner.

Edge OSU

Receivers

ASU senior Michael Jones had his second touchdown catch of the season last week against UO and is tied for fourth in the Pac-10 in receptions per game (5.1) and ranks fifth in receiving yards (68.1) per game.

Junior Kyle Williams, who has 14 catches for 252 yards and two touchdowns so far this season, has been ruled out for Saturday because of a concussion.

OSU has a dangerous duo of seniors in Sammie Stroughter and Shane Morales.

Morales is tied for second in the Pac-10 in receiving yards (498), while Stroughter sits right behind him with 496 yards. Both players have four touchdown catches this season.

Sophomore James Rodgers, Jacquizz’s brother, is also a speedy wideout that has tallied 1,005 all-purpose yards so far this season.

ASU does have one of the best receiving groups in the conference, but OSU’s has performed better so far this season.

Edge OSU

Offensive line

ASU’s offensive helped the running game gain 100 yards last week against UO, but it also gave up three sacks.

OSU’s offensive line is an experienced group that has given up the lowest number of sacks in the Pac-10 this season (eight) and plays an integral role in the Beavers’ successful running game.

The OSU unit will also get a big boost this weekend when senior Tavita Thompson returns from a year-long suspension by the NCAA. Thompson is expected to start at right tackle
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ASU’s offensive line is still going through numerous growing pains, and OSU’s has already established itself as one of the best in the Pac-10 and will be even better with Thompson in the lineup.

Edge OSU

Defensive line

ASU junior Dexter Davis is tied for third in the Pac-10 in sacks per game (0.71), and recently he has been getting more help from the rest of the Sun Devil defensive line.

But the Sun Devil defense ranks seventh in the Pac-10 in rushing yards allowed per game (165).

The OSU defensive line may feature three seniors, but none of them are returning starters.

Slade Norris has been causing havoc in opposing teams’ backfields as of late. He has racked up 4.5 sacks in the Beavers’ past three games and has also forced three fumbles so far this season.

Victor Butler, Norris’ counterpart at the other end position, also has two sacks and two forced fumbles.

The Beavers’ rushing defense ranks fifth in the conference (126 yards per game) and is giving up nearly 40 fewer yards per game than the Sun Devils.

ASU has talent on the defensive line, but OSU has been better as a group at stopping the run and getting pressure on the quarterback.

Edge OSU

Linebackers

While the ASU defense had its worst game of the season against UO, the linebackers churned out another strong performance.

Junior Travis Goethel led the team with eight tackles (two for loss), while senior Morris Wooten contributed four tackles, an interception and a fumble recovery.

Junior Mike Nixon still leads the team with 53 tackles and two interceptions and currently ranks third in the conference in tackles per game (7.6).

OSU’s corps also returns no starters from a year ago, and no player at the position ranks in the conference’s top 20 in tackles.
Junior Keaton Kristick ranks second on the team in tackles (42) and has also tallied a sack this season.

Sophomore Dwight Roberson also has 31 tackles and two forced fumbles from the backup middle linebacker spot.

ASU’s linebackers have played sound football all season, while OSU’s lack experience and results.

Edge ASU

Secondary

ASU’s pass defense ranks sixth in the Pac-10 in passing yards per game (198.9) after giving up 233 yards through the air to UO quarterbacks Jeremiah Masoli and Justin Roper last week.

Senior safety Troy Nolan and sophomore cornerback Omar Bolden each have at least one interception this season.

OSU’s entire starting secondary is comprised of seniors and ranks fourth in the conference in pass defense (178 yards per game).

Safety Greg Laybourn has had a big year for the Beavers, as he leads the Pac-10 in tackles (62) and also has two interceptions and two fumble recoveries so far this season.

Cornerbacks Keenan Lewis (17 tackles, two interceptions, three pass breakups) and Brandon Hughes (16 tackles, one interception, five pass breakups) are also veterans that can shut down opposing receivers.

ASU has playmakers in the secondary, but OSU’s group is one of the most experienced in the country and one of the best in the Pac-10.

Edge OSU

Special teams

ASU sophomore Trevor Hankins is expected to take over as the Sun Devils’ punter on Saturday, allowing sophomore Thomas Weber to focus on his field goal kicking.

Hankins punted three times against UO last week while splitting time with Weber.

Senior Nate Kimbrough (punts) and sophomore Omar Bolden (kickoffs) will replace Williams in the return game.

OSU sophomore kicker Justin Kahunt struggles from long range, as he has missed all four of his field goal attempts from beyond 40 yards.

Freshman punter Johnny Hekker also lacks power, as he is only averaging 36 yards per punt, which is worst in the Pac-10.

OSU’s kicking game is far from stellar, but having all those new faces in new roles for the Sun Devils has to make special teams coach Jamie Christian just a bit uneasy.

Edge OSU

X-factor

It’s expected to be cold and rainy on Saturday, and those conditions are part of the reason why Reser Stadium is regarded as one of the tougher places to play in the Pac-10. Just ask USC.

That atmosphere does not seem ideal for this Sun Devil team to get back in the win column for the first time since September.

ASU coach Dennis Erickson may have plenty of experience winning in Corvallis under pressure, but that doesn’t mean his players do.

Edge OSU

Overall Edge OSU

Reach the reporter at gina.mizell@asu.edu.