How well will Arizona State bounce back from the drubbing it received from top-ranked USC last week?
Will the Sun Devils bounce back at all?
This is the issue before No. 21 ASU (5-1, 2-1 Pac-10) during today’s conference football meeting with UCLA (4-2, 2-1).
The Devils say the 38-point loss to the Trojans was flushed out of their system Monday, a day after center Drew Hodgdon gave an impassioned speech on the practice field during a players-only meeting.
"No one’s brought it up since," said junior linebacker Dale Robinson.
Practices have gone well this week, coach Dirk Koetter said.
The team has refocused on what’s still left to achieve.
"I have no doubt we’ll bounce back," Koetter said.
Koetter, though, has made sure to provide the players with positive visual feedback to ensure that.
On Friday night he planned to again show the Sun Devils edited highlights of the hows and whys they got off to a 5-0 start.
"We wanted to remind ourselves of how we played this year," he said.
The defense in particular is hoping to play as it did before USC.
"We have to get back to getting 11 guys swarming to the football," Koetter said.
With the exception of the exceptionally talented Trojans, UCLA is most like Oregon among the teams the Devils have faced.
And the Bruins, if everyone is healthy, might have a slight edge over the Ducks in raw offensive talent.
"If you look at their whole offense, if they get (Craig) Bragg back," Koetter said, referring to the Bruins’ injured top receiver, "if you look at every position, you’d say these guys are pretty good."
UCLA has the Pac-10's second-leading rusher, Maurice Drew, who burned the Sun Devils for 176 yards last season, including an 83-yard TD scamper.
"We learned first-hand last year the guy can go the distance," Koetter
said. "UCLA’s run game is what scares you a bit."
Lost in the Sun Devils’ success and the 45 points the defense allowed against USC is the recent inconsistency of the ASU offense.
The Devils are averaging only 258.3 yards against Pac-10 competition.
It’s the first time during Koetter’s tenure that an ASU offense has failed to gain at least 300 yards on three successive Saturdays.
A significant part of the problem is a running game that’s averaging only 89.3 yards in league play. Injuries and a suspension have nearly wiped out the ASU running back corps. But when ASU’s top three backs were available the best running day produced but 139 yards.
The prescription for the ailing ASU offense, though, may be the Bruins, who have the worst defense in the league.
"It’s going to be part of our emphasis this week for sure," said quarterback Andrew Walter of the running game. "I’m hoping Hakim (Hill, broken forearm) will feel better. That will be a critical point."
ASU has a difficult stretch but three of the four games are in Sun Devil Stadium.
"We need the fans to get involved," Koetter said.
The only way to purge the USC loss was to work hard in practice and move on, which ASU has done, according to Robinson.
"We have a statement game this week," Robinson said. "We have to show in the game how we’ve practiced."
Koetter is confident that’s what will occur.
"They have a real good strong attitude. I like the character this team has," he said. "(Today) couldn’t come soon enough."