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September 7, 2008

Upset predictions fuel Sun Devils in easy win

In the days leading up to the ASU football team's game against Stanford, several high profile analysts picked the Cardinal to leave Tempe with an upset victory.

Linebacker Gerald Munns said the Sun Devils heard those predictions, and that they served to pump the team up even more than might ordinarily be the case for its Pac-10 opener Saturday night.

ASU came out fired up, and by halftime the Sun Devils had already seemingly squashed Stanford's upset bid. Though the game was still within reach at that point, it never felt close in the second half, and the Sun Devils cruised to a 41-17 victory in front of 59,441 fans at Sun Devil Stadium.

"It was a big win because Stanford is really a lot better than people think," Munns said.

"It's a big win, we definitely needed that home victory in the conference."

Coach Dennis Erickson said he was pleased with his team's effort against the Cardinal on both sides of the ball.

One of Erickson's main goals was to shut down Stanford's rushing attack, and his team did exactly as asked.

Last week, Stanford rushed for 210 yards against Oregon State. Saturday night the Cardinal was limited to just 113 yards on 30 attempts.

"We kind of took them out of their running game," Erickson said. "Everything they got they had to earn in the running game. There were never any long runs and there were really never any couple long plays that they had. We were able to keep everything in front of us which was our goal going into the game."

For the second week in a row quarterback Rudy Carpenter had a very efficient game, completing 27 of his 36 pass attempts for 345 yards and three touchdowns.

While Carpenter was happy with his performance, he thinks there is still some work to be done to improve his game.

"I don't want to sound negative, but, it was a good win (but) I was a little disappointed in how I played a little bit," Carpenter said. "I called a couple of plays wrong and threw an interception. That was a terrible interception."

The rushing attack underperformed a week ago in the season opener, but got back on track against Stanford.

ASU's running backs totaled 136 yards on the ground to go along with two touchdowns, one from Dimitri Nance and the other from Keegan Herring.

Herring, who was questionable heading into the game with an injured hamstring, made his presence felt when he entered the game midway through the second quarter. He gained 20 yards on his first rushing attempt of the season.

Herring finished with 12 carries for 59 yards.

"Keegan kind of fired us up in the running game," Erickson said. "And even before he got in there, Dimitri was running real well too. The combination of those two and [Shaun] DeWitty and [Ryan] Bass and Jarrell [Woods], we've got some weapons we can use there."

Nance led the team in rushing with 75 yards.

And once again the offensive line had a strong performance. It did allow two sacks, but Stanford was blitzing extensively throughout the game.

The ASU defense, which did not force any turnovers in Week 1, had three interceptions Saturday.

Munns made the first pick of the night on a pass from Stanford quarterback Tavita Pritchard that was essentially thrown right at him.

"He threw the ball right to me, I don't know how impressive it was," said Munns, who recorded his first career interception Saturday night. "I made sure I looked it in. I was shocked he threw me the ball."

Munns had a part in the second interception too, tipping a Pritchard pass to safety Troy Nolan for the pick early in the fourth quarter.

Cornerback Terell Carr, playing in a reserve role, had the third interception late in the fourth quarter.

Although the Sun Devils easily handled Stanford, early on, they had their troubles.

On ASU's first drive, it marched methodically down the field, but was stopped on the 6-yard line and settled for a 23-yard field goal from Thomas Weber to put the Sun Devils up 3-0 7:15 into the game.

But when Stanford took the ball on its first possession, it drove 80 yards and scored a touchdown on a 5-yard dash by running back Toby Gerhart.

Stanford's scoring drive only took 4:13 and looked nearly effortless.

"It couldn't have been much better," Erickson said. "That happens. We just made adjustments after that and they didn't do that again."

The Sun Devils' red zone woes continued on its next drive when they were stopped at the 4-yard line and once again settled for a Weber field goal.

But then, ASU got it rolling.

On the Sun Devils' next possession they finally put the ball into the end zone on an 11-yard pass from Carpenter to wide receiver Mike Jones.

Then just before halftime, Carpenter threw a 45-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Kerry Taylor to put ASU up 20-10 at the midway point.

"That was a huge play," Erickson said. "Scoring there just before the half, that was probably the turning point in the game without question."


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