After a 24-14 defeat at the hands of California, ASU (2-3, 1-1 Pac-10) is seemingly without direction. Taking into account the ankle sprain suffered by QB Rudy Carpenter in Saturday's loss, the prospects look even more grim for next weekend's road game against the #8/9 USC Trojans, a team fresh off of a 44-10 thumping of then-#23 Oregon.
USC is gunning for their 400th win in the Coliseum, and can achieve that goal with a victory over the Sun Devils. USC has had a winning percentage at home of .751 since 1923, the year the Coliseum was opened.
Mondays are when press conferences are held here at Arizona State, when Coach Dennis Erickson and Rudy Carpenter can update the media about the previous weekend's events.
Erickson arrived first, looking somber. When asked about Carpenter's availability to play on Saturday, Erickson replied "if he plays, it is because he is tough."
Immediately, this drew interest in Danny Sullivan from the press. Coach Erickson complimented Sullivan as a "very competitive guy" who "studies as much as any backup quarterback I've ever been around." His physical play and strong arm defines him as a signal caller, and he is "prepared" to start if necessary against USC.
"We are not on all cylinders offensively," Erickson said. "We have to continue to improve; continue to try to run the football. The worst thing you can do is panic."
Erickson noted that the team is focused on the task at hand, and that is beating USC. They know what must be done in practice, and the good habits they are developing will serve them well for the rest of the season.
When asked about USC's linebacker core, Erickson talked about their downhill play and the speed at which they operate. The scout team attempts to emulate the linebackers of USC, but in game they play at a speed that cannot be foreseen.
After Coach Erickson left, Rudy Carpenter hobbled in, heavily favoring his right leg. He looks downright hurt. When asked how he felt, Carpenter quickly replied, "I feel good."
"I really have no idea what is going to happen," Carpenter said. The doctors have yet to clear him to practice, so he doesn't know if and when he will be ready to play. His current consecutive games played streak is 36, but according to Rudy that is not any extra motivation for him to get on the field.
"We have to find a way as a whole offense to get better on first and second downs."
Carpenter lamented on Oregon State's victory over USC two weeks ago, saying that it was essential that ASU has a working running game in order to beat USC and get USC's defense into coverage that Carpenter could work with and pass against.
"If I had the answers, we would be doing them already. I am trying to find the answer," Carpenter said when asked what is going wrong in the offense.
It all seems diplomatic to me. We must look at the lack of running game; this is handcuffing the team. If ASU was able to move the ball on the ground and sustain drives like OSU did against USC, then we would be able to pass the ball with more regularity and with less coverage to pick through.
Touching upon Rudy's injury one more time, I would like to add that he doesn't look mobile. He seems to be frustrated and in a lot of pain, something that came across in the press conference. He did mention that if Danny Sullivan was given a chance to play, he believed Sullivan would do well. I think it would take an act of God to put Rudy Carpenter on the field this Saturday; there's just no way he can give ASU the best opportunity to win if he can barely walk today.