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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Sun Devils will find out what 3-0 means

Oregon State quarterback Derek Anderson (14) will face No. 22 Arizona State's fourth-ranked pass defense. 
 (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)

In the first weekend with multiple Pac-10 games this season, many eyes will be fixed on perhaps the most surprising team thus far, 3-0 Arizona State, when it hosts a team that’s disappointed to come in at 1-2 in Oregon State.

The Sun Devils have beaten Mike Price’s UTEP team plus two Big Ten foes in Northwestern and Iowa. Last week’s win against the Hawkeyes came in stunning fashion – a 44-7 blowout. That win has vaulted Arizona State into the AP poll, where they check in at No. 22.

Oregon State’s struggles, on the other hand, have been excruciating, most notably the season-opening overtime loss at LSU that including three missed extra points by the Beavers.

But don’t think Oregon State’s spotty record has the Sun Devils and head coach Dirk Koetter thinking the home game will be a cakewalk. Both defenses, Arizona State’s in particular, have looked outstanding at times this season. That has Koetter believing Saturday’s game could be lower scoring than some expect, considering two marquee signal-callers in the Oregon State’s Derek Anderson and Arizona State’s Andrew Walter will be on the field.

“I wouldn’t say that I would expect a shootout. It could turn out that way, but right now I would expect a defensive game,” Koetter said, turning his attention to Anderson’s talents. “Very, very, very dangerous. All you have to do is watch the LSU tape. He’s had so many big games over his career. The guy, when he’s on, is as good as anybody out there.”

Koetter has reason to be confident, however. His pass defense is currently ranked fourth in the nation, a surprise after 2003’s troubling 5-7 mark.

In the off-season, the Sun Devils switched from a 4-2-5 to a more conventional 4-3-4 look on defense, and the results have been startling.

“They are really doing a nice job,” Oregon State head coach Mike Riley said. “They’re flying around and they put a lot of pressure on you in that red-zone area. They come after you and if you don’t handle that pressure you’re not going to have time to throw any balls into the end zone.”

But Koetter said it’s more than just scheme, too.

“It’s a combination of several things,” he said. “No. 1, the guys are playing well and they’re playing with confidence right now. We added a secondary coach in Mark Carrier and I think Mark has really added a lot of confidence to that group.

“But I also think that we haven’t played a real good passing team yet. UTEP, they spread you out but their quarterback didn’t really give guys a chance to make plays on the ball. Northwestern, they have an excellent quarterback, but when we shut down their passing game they ran the ball on us. They ran for like 250 yards. And then Iowa is not a passing team at all. So here in these next three games – Oregon State, Oregon and USC – we’re going to see three excellent passing teams.”

Safe to say, in three weeks Koetter will have a much better idea if the 3-0 start is an omen of things to come or a reason for false hope.

Running from L.A.

There are two Pac-10 schools in Los Angeles, but that doesn’t mean they’re limited to two standout running backs this season.

No. 1 USC has a pair of stars in LenDale White and Reggie Bush, while UCLA counters with Maurice Drew, who piled up a school-record 322 yards against the Huskies last week and is a graduate of famed high school powerhouse De La Salle in Concord, Calif.

“We had a lot of catching up to do and he helped us,” Bruins head coach Karl Dorrell said of Drew’s record-breaking day. “On Sunday watching the tape, I was like, ‘Wow.’ “

Carroll said it’s no surprise that the three have done so well – all were considered blue-chip recruits coming out of high school.


Stanford coach Buddy Teevens is trying to put his team in the best state possible before playing the Trojans this week. “I think they’re by far the best team in the country,” Teevens said. “We certainly haven’t faced a team the caliber of USC.” … Riley said he has no intention of changing his three-headed backfield this week against the Sun Devils. … Both Cal and UCLA are off this week.