Pac-12: A.J. Green

Quick Pac-10 roundup

September, 27, 2009

Posted by's Ted Miller

A quick review of this past weekend's games.

Oregon 42, California 3: Oregon completely dominated both sides of the ball against No. 6 Cal and announced that it is back in the Pac-10 race and national scene. Quarterback Jeremiah Masoli returned to spectacular form, completing 21 of 25 passes for 253 yards with three TDs and no interceptions. All three touchdowns went to tight end Ed Dickson. Meanwhile, Cal quarterback Kevin Riley was completely out of sync and running back Jahvid Best rushed for only 55 yards with a long of 11. Up next: Cal plays host to USC, while Oregon plays host to Washington State.

Arizona 37, Oregon State 32: Arizona found its quarterback, while Oregon State is still looking for answers on its defense. Nick Foles completed 25 of 34 for 254 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions in his first career start as the injury-ravaged Wildcats earned a big road win. Foles picked apart the Beavers secondary and wasn't sacked. Sean Canfield, meanwhile, was sacked five times and intercepted twice. Up next: The Beavers try to avoid another 2-3 start at Arizona State. Arizona has a much-needed bye week to get healthy.

Georgia 20, Arizona State 17: Guess here is that the Sun Devils are glad they won't see Bulldogs receiver A.J. Green again. For the second consecutive year, Green owned the Sun Devils secondary, catching eight passes for 153 yards, including a 36-yard third-down catch that set up the game-winning field goal. He also blocked ASU's go-ahead field goal attempt on the previous possession. The Sun Devils played the No. 21 Bulldogs tough, but the offense only managed 204 yards against a defense that had been struggling in the previous three games. Up next: Oregon State visits Tempe.

Stanford 34, Washington 14: The Huskies stay in the national rankings will be a short one because the defense had no answer for Stanford's power running attack. Toby Gerhart rushed for a career-high 200 yards, and the Cardinal overall had 322 yards on the ground. Also, UW quarterback Jake Locker tossed two interceptions and fumbled once. The Huskies obviously haven't arrived just yet. The Cardinal, meanwhile, made a statement and sits atop the Pac-10 at 2-0 in conference play. Up next: Washington is at Notre Dame. Stanford plays host to UCLA in a critical conference showdown.

USC 27, Washington State 6: There was little here to suggest USC is on the cusp of becoming a dominant team. Matt Barkley returned at quarterback, and the game plan included some downfield throws that worked -- he threw two TD passes -- but the Trojans were sloppy. As for the Cougars, is it Jeff Tuel Time? The true freshman completed 14 of 22 passes for 130 yards, rushed for 34 yard and led the Cougars late scoring drive. Moreover, it seems like substantial progress to lose by 21 a year after losing by 69, particularly on defense. Up next: USC is at Cal. Washington State visits Oregon.

A.J. Green gets Arizona State again

September, 26, 2009
Posted by's Ted Miller

Think Arizona State could have used Thomas Weber at Georgia?

The Bulldogs blocked a 38-yard field goal attempt from backup kicker Bobby Wenzig and then drove for their own winning field goal to slip Arizona State 20-17.

The key play of the drive was a 36-yard pass on third-and-6 from the Georgia 42 to A.J. Green.

Green caught eight passes for 153 yards after posting 159 yards receiving against the Sun Devils last year. Oh, and it appears he blocked Wenzig's field goal.

That set up the Blair Walsh's 37-yard field goal for the win.

Probably shouldn't be hard on Wenzig. He did convert a 43-yarder in the first quarter.

A game effort by the Sun Devils, who had a chance to win despite just 203 total yards.

Georgia a big measuring stick for Arizona State

September, 22, 2009

Posted by's Ted Miller

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Arizona State has been utterly dominant while winning its first two games. The Sun Devils' defense is ranked No. 1 in the nation. The offense ranks ninth with 44 points a game.

Now, take that information, crumple it up and throw it out the window. Coach Dennis Erickson knows that pounding on Idaho State and Louisiana-Monroe means little.
Matt Kartozian/US Presswire
Saturday's game at Sanford Stadium will be Danny Sullivan's first start on the road.

A trip to No. 17 Georgia on Saturday? That's a bit of an upgrade in competition.

"We'll find out a little bit more about what we are as a team, that's the bottom line," Erickson said. "It doesn't matter who they are or what their rank is. We're [asking] right now, 'where are we at as a football team?'"

Erickson repeated variations of those sentiments to a variety of questions: Georgia will be a measuring stick for the Sun Devils.

If they manage to win, or least keep things competitive into the fourth quarter, they might become a top-half of the Pac-10 team, though the Bulldogs probably aren't in the class of California or USC this season.

If they can't keep up, then Arizona State likely falls in with the gaggle of teams scrapping for six wins and bowl eligibility in the lower-middle, bottom-third of the conference.

Of course, one game, win or lose, doesn't a season make. It's possible the Sun Devils in Athens, Ga., won't be anything like the Sun Devils in November. Still, this is the first chance to evaluate Arizona State against a first-rate BCS conference team.

Georgia opened a can of whup butt on the Sun Devils last year, the 27-10 count not doing justice to the Bulldogs dominance.

Georgia took a 21-3 lead into halftime and mostly coasted home. They outrushed the Sun Devils 176 yards to 4 and outgained them overall 461-212.

"They pretty much dominated us," Erickson said. "We didn't play very well and they played well."

The first question is how Arizona State quarterback Danny Sullivan will handle his first start on the road in one of the nation's tougher venues -- "Between the Hedges" at Sanford Stadium.

That's impossible to say. Sullivan is a senior, but the last time he faced a fast, elite defense, he crumbled after coming off the bench in 2008 at USC.

While the Georgia defense doesn't compare to USC -- it's given up 34 points per game -- two of those games were on the road, so the home crowd should help.

"Until you go in there and experience it, you just don't know," Erickson said.

On the other hand, this is a different group of Sun Devils. The defense is deeper and faster than last year's and, while there's lots of experience, a youth movement led by tackles Lawrence Guy, a sophomore, and William Sutton and Corey Adams as well as linebacker Vontaze Burfict -- all true freshmen -- is most intriguing.

Yet the biggest difference might be on the offensive line.

In 2008, the Sun Devils started converted defensive lineman Jon Hargis at left tackle and 289-pound redshirt freshman Adam Tello at right tackle. Things didn't go well for either.

A far more experienced Hargis is now the left guard, while Tello is his backup. NFL prospect Shawn Lauvao moved out to left tackle, while guard Matt Hustad and tackle Tom Njunge give the Sun Devils far more athleticism on the right side. Neither was healthy last year.

Is it a great offensive line? No. But last year's unit didn't have a chance -- the Sun Devils ranked 113th in the nation in rushing and surrendered 34 sacks (109th in the nation). This time around, it might.

"We're much more solid, we have more depth," Erickson said. "We're playing a little bit better, technique-wise and so forth. We made some moves to get our best players in the right positions. As we go through the next 10 weeks, if we lose a guy or two, we'll put people out there who play pretty well. I like where we're at. Are we a great offensive line? No, but we're getting better all the time and we're better now than we were at this time last year."

Georgia, meanwhile, entered the season having to replace running back Knowshon Moreno and quarterback Matt Stafford, NFL first-round picks who dominated the action in last year's game. The Bulldogs seem to be getting their legs under them after opening with a loss at Oklahoma State. They had just 257 total yards against the Cowboys but piled up 530 yards Saturday in their win over Arkansas.

"Joe Cox is playing extremely well at quarterback," Erickson said. "The last two weeks, I didn't see any drop-off."

A key matchup will be Bulldogs sophomore receiver A.J. Green against the Sun Devils secondary, particularly cornerback Omar Bolden. Last year, Green dominated Bolden, catching eight passes for 159 yards and a touchdown.

Erickson's advice to his team on handling the frenzy of a road game in an SEC stadium? Have fun.

"You talk to our players about it and they're excited to go down there and experience [that]," he said. "It's going to be fun; they're looking forward to it."

Sounds like the Sun Devils are eager to find out who they really are in 2009.

Best case-worst case: Arizona State

August, 5, 2009

Posted by's Ted Miller

Third in a series looking at potential dream and nightmare scenarios for all Pac-10 teams, starting at the bottom and working up from my vote in the Pac-10 media poll.

Up next: Arizona State

Best case

A 2-0 start after beating Idaho State and Louisiana-Monroe proved very little for Arizona State, and it was clear the Sun Devils were keeping things close to the vest in advance of their trip to Georgia.

Most ASU fans would have been satisfied with a respectable performance against the 10th-ranked Bulldogs, but after Dexter Davis returned a Joe Cox fumble 28 yards for a touchdown and an early 10-7 lead, the whiff of an upset began wafting over Sanford Stadium.

Cox clearly was rattled by a Sun Devils defense that looked nothing like the middling crew the Bulldogs saw in Tempe a year ago. While the ASU offense also was muted, quarterback Danny Sullivan didn't make any critical mistakes, which is exactly what Cox did when a third-down pass from the ASU 16-yard line intended for A.J. Green was picked off by Omar Bolden and returned 100 yards for a touchdown.

The Sun Devils' 24-21 win made 92,000 folks very quiet.

The euphoria lasted too long. The following weekend, No. 18 Oregon State takes a 24-7 halftime lead and holds on for a 31-28 victory. But the Sun Devils jump back into the national rankings after rolling up wins over Washington State, Washington and a double-overtime thriller at Stanford.

Now, however, the gauntlet starts. The Sun Devils lose a 10-point fourth-quarter lead to California, and USC becomes the first team to rush for more than 200 yards against the Sun Devils in a 28-17 victory. A cold, wet trip to Oregon becomes another overtime thriller, but this time the Sun Devils fall.

The normally mild-mannered Davis flips out. He tells reporters, "You will never see any player in the entire country who will play harder than I will play the rest of the season. And you will not see someone push the rest of the team as hard as I will push everybody for the rest of the season, and you will never see a team play harder than we will the rest of the season."

Davis collects two sacks in a 30-21 victory over UCLA and two more in a 28-27 win over arch-rival Arizona.

The Sun Devils then whip TCU, 33-17, in the Las Vegas Bowl, finish 9-4 and 21st in both polls.

Worst case

While Arizona State didn't have much trouble rolling Idaho State and Louisiana-Monroe, it didn't look impressive doing so. There were lots of areas of concern, and those concerns were amplified in Athens, Ga.

Sullivan, making his first start on the road in front of 92,000 red-clad crazies, throws two interceptions and the Sun Devils rush for just 48 yards in a 31-10 loss to No. 10 Georgia. The Sun Devils trudge off the field amid chants of "SEC! SEC! SEC!"

"Why are these guys so high on the Security and Exchange Commission?" defensive tackle Lawrence Guy asks end Davis.

"I suppose Georgia fans are enthusiastic about an organization that protects investors, maintains fair, orderly, and efficient markets, and facilitates capital formation," Davis replies.

"That's nice," Guy says.

Oregon State receiver James Rodgers accumulates a lot of capital the next weekend, piling up 225 yards of total offense and scoring two touchdowns in a 28-14 Beavers win.

The Sun Devils win at Washington State, but then lose in overtime to Washington, letting Jake Locker slip away for a 15-yard game-winning scramble.

The schedule's degree of difficulty begins to amp up and things get ugly, as the Sun Devils match the six-game losing streak that ruined the 2008 season.

The Territorial Cup vs. arch-rival Arizona is a painful affair. The No. 18 Wildcats not only earn a Sun Bowl berth with their 33-24 win, they also force the Sun Devils to finish the season with a seven-game losing streak, the longest of coach Dennis Erickson's career and the longest in program history.

Bolden looking to regain freshman form

October, 2, 2008

Posted by's Ted Miller

California has inexperienced receivers and issues at quarterback, which sounds like the perfect recipe for Arizona State cornerback Omar Bolden to regain his mojo.

Bolden, a touted recruit in 2007 who made an immediate impact and earned Freshman All-American honors, has struggled early this season, most notably when Georgia true freshman A.J. Green lit him up on seven catches for 150 yards in the first half two weeks ago and forced the Sun Devils to help Bolden with a safety.

"[He's] probably not having the year he had a year ago," Arizona State coach Dennis Erickson said. "He's playing OK, but he's not playing and being as dominant as he was a year ago. Obviously, that can change and hopefully it will."

Bolden told the East Valley Tribune that he was more comfortable in last year's scheme, which featured more press-man coverage. Now Bolden is playing off wideouts on the line of scrimmage, which requires him to read and react instead of go mano-a-mano with a receiver.

"It's been difficult," Bolden told the newspaper. "Last year, we had our technique. This year, it's something completely different, which is a little irritating to me, because I haven't played on the corner all that much. Learning two techniques in two years is rough."

Erickson intimated this week that the defensive scheme could be tweaked in order to get Bolden back on track. 

"We've got to do a better job of getting him in position where he's more comfortable," he said.

Erickson wants to be careful with Bolden's confidence -- the sophomore has probably never struggled on a football field before -- but Erickson also sees too much talent to believe Bolden won't bounce back.

This weekend at Cal might be a good place to start.

"He is one of the best," Erickson said. "He'll get better all the time. He is so competitive and those juices will come out."

Georgia makes statement but its got a lot of work ahead

September, 21, 2008

Posted by's Ted Miller

TEMPE, Ariz. -- I watched USC brutalize Ohio State. And I've now watched Georgia manhandle Arizona State.

  AP Photo/Paul Connors
 Georgia running back Knowshon Moreno showed once again he is one of the best in the nation Saturday night.

The obvious question is: Who's better?

Heck if I know.

But if I had to guess, I'd take USC.

That seemed to be the consensus opinion among a couple of other reporters I talked to who had covered both games.

Say what you want about Ohio State, but it's laden with NFL players and few folks would pick the Sun Devils to beat the Buckeyes.

That said: If the Bulldogs go undefeated against a schedule that includes Alabama (next Saturday), LSU, Florida and Auburn, the sight test won't matter because they will have passed the "do test."

That's a big if, which is probably why Georgia coach Mark Richt didn't want to start lobbying for respect just yet, even though his team, ranked No. 1 in the preseason, has dropped two spot in the polls while watching everyone fall in love with the Trojans.

"I wasn't really worried about making a statement," Richt said. "I just wanted to win the game."

Georgia has one of the slickest running backs in the nation in Knowshon Moreno. QB Matt Stafford owns the best arm I've seen since Carson Palmer. Freshman wide receiver A.J. Green looks ready for his close-up, too.

And the defense? Its linebackers are fast and its front four is physical. The secondary is above-average.

The defense is great against the run. It entered the game surrendering 59.7 yards rushing per game and held the Sun Devils to an embarrassing four yards on the ground.

The Bulldogs struggled to pressure opposing QBs, but the one-dimensional Sun Devils made things predictable and Georgia had four sacks.

However, be forewarned Dawgs fans: It's unlikely Georgia will face any more offensive lines with as many issues as ASU, at least not in its marquee games ahead.

Of course, Georgia isn't exactly dominant on its offensive line, and that youth -- two freshmen and two sophomores started -- that played fairly well against ASU, probably will find the going rougher against SEC front-sevens.

Or USC's front seven, should those teams hook in a some sort of game, you know, down the line.

While this game made a statement -- Georgia took care of business a long way from home against a quality opponent -- the Bulldogs don't need to fret about what sort of message they're sending.

Against this schedule, just winning makes a statement.

"We obviously know the prettier it is, the more people are going to look at it," Stafford said. "But we don't look at it like that... We definitely haven't arrived."

Georgia's Green and Stafford emerge together

September, 21, 2008

Posted by's Ted Miller

TEMPE, Ariz. -- It's not the Two Stooges and it's not the Two Blind Mice and everyone knows that three -- not two -- is the magic number.

So it probably bodes well for Georgia that its talented offensive duo of Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno appears to have found a third big Dawg with which to attack defenses.

"Want to ask about A.J. Green?" Georgia coach Mark Richt queried reporters a few moments into his post-game comments.

  Chris Morrison/US Presswire
 The combination of true freshman receiver A.J. Green and junior QB Matthew Stafford is working wonders for the Bulldogs.

Green, a true freshman, hauled in eight passes for 159 yards with a TD in the third-ranked Bulldogs 27-10 beatdown of Arizona State.

Those numbers eclipsed his totals from the previous three games, and announced that Georgia has a new weapon as it begins its SEC schedule next Saturday against Alabama.

What did it mean for Green to slice and dice the Sun Devils coverage and become the Bulldogs first receiver to have more than 100 yards receiving since 2006 and post the team's best tally since 2004?

Well, Stafford, maybe the most physically talented QB in the nation, threw for a career-high 285 yards.

"Y'all [can] say it's a breakout game, but I just try to make plays every game," Green said.

Green, 6-foot-4, 200 pounds, did almost all his damage in the first half, catching seven passes for 150 yards before the break. Richt said that Green exploited soft, man-to-man coverage on the wide side of the field.

"We definitely wanted to make sure we kept it coming his way," Richt said. "He basically changed the game for us."

Added Stafford, "He was alone out there a lot and it's a good matchup."

Arizona State quieted Green in the second half by rolling coverage toward him with extra safety help. But the damage was done.

"My guess is the next team will have a better plan," Richt said.

That might be true, but extra attention for Green means an opposing defense won't be able to focus its efforts on Moreno. And wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi, no slouch himself, figures to find the going easier.

Green's teammates didn't seem terribly surprised by Green's evening. He's shown flashes in previous games, but he'd already raised more than a few impressed eyebrows in practices.

"What you saw today was what I think a lot of the team was waiting for to come out," cornerback Asher Allen said. "He most definitely changed the game today."

The Bulldogs defenders seemed to take particular relish in the youngster's breakthrough. Perhaps they enjoyed watching an opposing defense look bad trying to contain the Parade All-American from Summerville, S.C.

"He makes crazy catches no matter how bad the pass is," linebacker Rennie Curran said.

That translates to: Green can increase Stafford's margin for error.

Consider the Bulldogs touchdown drive that gave them a 21-3 lead right before the half. The 5-play, 70-yard drive featured passes of 23, 31 and 14 yards to Green, the final one for the score on third-and-8.

It was basically Stafford and Green effortlessly playing pitch and catch.

"He's a special player," Stafford said. "You can see it in practice. We knew he had to get a couple of touches."

Now, with Alabama coming to town with its freshman phenom receiver, Julio Jones, the big question is: Who's the best freshman wide receiver in the SEC?

Georgia-Arizona State: Fourth-quarter reflections

September, 20, 2008

Posted by's Ted Miller

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Georgia made its statement. It traveled to the West Coast and put a whipping on Arizona State.

Couple of things stood out for Georgia.

Matthew Stafford and his NFL-arm have found a go-to receiver in A.J. Green, a true freshman who looked like the best player on the field while catching seven passes for 148 yard with a touchdown.

The Bulldogs also showed Arizona State what a SEC defense looked like.

But part of that was the Sun Devils showing Georgia what a green offensive line and bad Pac-10 running game looked like.

For the Sun Devils, they played hard, but they were not good enough to beat the Bulldogs unless the Bulldogs make mistakes, and the Bulldogs do not make mistakes -- they didn't have a turnover Saturday and have just two fumbles and no interceptions this season.

As for the Sun Devils, early results in the Pac-10 suggest that being significantly worse than Georgia doesn't mean they can't complete in the wobbling conference.

ASU will only see one team this good: USC.

Second-quarter reflections on Georgia-ASU

September, 20, 2008

Posted by's Ted Miller

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Whichever team you are rooting for, you've got to appreciate that Knowshon Moreno "Desert Dive" that capped the Bulldogs 91-yard touchdown drive in the second quarter. He left the ground at the 4-yard line and flew into the endzone. Spectacular and Reggie Bush-esque.

It also seems like the ASU defense is vulnerable on the perimeter -- those UGA sweeps are consistently getting yards.

It's not good when you respond to a 91-yard drive with a three and out and gain zero yards on three incompletions. Nor is it good to follow by getting a punt blocked. Georgia is not a team to make things easy for.

That's why Dimitri Nance's non-contact fumble was so damaging.

The defense stopped Georgia after the blocked punt and gave it's offense good field position, only to return to the field two plays later.

It's got to be demoralizing. You could also sense the resignation in the stadium that the Bulldogs were about to go up 14-0, which they promptly did.

Remember what I said about A.J. Green? He's really good.

ASU closed the gap to 14-3 and the Bulldogs go ping-ping-ping --- 23, 31 and 14 yards to Green, the final toss for a TD.

Green has six catches for 139 yards heading into halftime.

Yowza, 21-3.

Will ASU have any answers or is this going to get ugly?

First-quarter reflections on Georgia-ASU

September, 20, 2008

Posted by's Ted Miller

TEMPE, Ariz. -- No early explosion for either team. Both seem to be feeling each other out. That would seem to favor Arizona State, which needs to believe it can keep up with Georgia.

But Georgia's offense found its rhythm on the final possession of the quarter, driving from its 9-yard line to a first-and-goal on the Sun Devils 8-yard-line as quarter ends.

Early returns on the Arizona State running game: Struggling.



Thursday, 10/2
Saturday, 10/4