Quarterback Rudy Carpenter believes he and the rest of the Arizona State offense have progressed in the practices after a frustrating outing in last week’s season opener against Northern Arizona.
The Sun Devils beat the Lumberjacks 35-14, and Carpenter threw for 261 yards and two touchdowns. But coach Dirk Koetter called it the worst game the sophomore has had since becoming ASU’s starting QB, and on Tuesday, Carpenter concurred.
“Completing 17 of 24 in your worst game is pretty good, but we didn’t score a lot of points,” said Carpenter, the Division I-A passing efficiency leader last year. “It doesn’t matter what your statistics are, what matters is if you are staying on the field. We went three-and-out a lot.
“There was one time on second-and-1 where I took a 12-yard sack. I can’t be doing that stuff.”
Asked if he has seen improvement from the offense in practice, especially from Carpenter, Koetter said, “A little. It’s been so-so.”
What should help is the fact that Saturday’s opponent, Nevada, employs a 3-4 defense, whereas NAU utilized an unorthodox 3-3-5 scheme. Carpenter was often surprised by a Lumberjacks defense that did an effective job of masking its coverages and shifts.
After the game, Koetter stressed Carpenter’s problems were not all the quarterback’s fault. The coach said he and offensive coordinator Roy Wittke — who were working their first game together — did not give Carpenter sufficient support.
“That’s true,” Carpenter said, “but I don’t think you can blame that on any one person. When you are playing a defense like (NAU) was, there is really no good answer. . . . But we won. That’s all that matters.”
Defensive end Tranell Morant (toe) continues to do more in practice each day, but Koetter said he will not be certain on his status for Nevada until Thursday.
“We’ll go another day or so on Tranell, and then we’ll decide,” Koetter said. “But he’s off to a good start.”
Safety Rodney Cox, who missed the NAU game with a shoulder injury, is expected to return on Saturday and could be involved in the Sun Devils’ nickel coverage.
With ASU forced to use a nickel defense against NAU’s empty-backfield offense, true freshman Ryan McFoy started in his first collegiate game. He was the Sun Devils’ second safety, while Josh Barrett slid to nickelback.
McFoy, an athletic 6-foot-1, 194-pounder, fell down on NAU’s 80-yard touchdown pass in the first half, enabling quarterback Jason Murrietta to hit receiver Alex Watson with a long pass.
“The coaches told me to stay low when I backpedal,” McFoy said. “In high school, I could backpedal high, because it wasn’t much of a challenge. But this is a different pace in college. I just have to learn the little things.”
After film review, ASU’s coaches took a sack in the NAU game from defensive lineman David Smith and awarded it to linebacker Derron Ware.
That gives Ware four sacks, which ties him for the lead nationally with Antwan Barnes of Florida International. . . .
While stretching before practice, the Sun Devils usually listen to music. Tuesday’s selection of old-school country artist Merle Haggard came courtesy of defensive coordinator Bill Miller.
“Coach Miller evidently broke into our CD machine,” Koetter said. “After that music, I told the players the worst part of practice was over.”