Homecoming for the ASU football team is still a little more than a week away, but for Sun Devil senior quarterback Danny Sullivan, Saturday’s game against Stanford will be as close to going home as it gets.
Sullivan expects as many as 200 friends and family members to be seated in the stands at Stanford Stadium in Palo Alto, Calif., a short drive away from the quarterback’s hometown of Los Gatos, when ASU counters Stanford in a pivotal conference matchup.
“I love Palo Alto; it’s a great town,” said Sullivan, who said he played his most memorable game of high school in Palo Alto. “Having all of my friends and family there, it’s going to be special.”
By Master Tesfatsion
State Press Television
The senior would love to entertain his home-away-from-home fans with a performance like the one he had against Washington last week, when Sullivan passed for 263 yards and had a 50-yard touchdown pass with five seconds left to give the game an “instant classic” status.
The game also gave ASU a 4-2 record (2-1 Pac-10), but Sullivan and the Sun Devils know they can’t let up the rest of the season given the competitive nature of the Pac-10.
“Washington was a tough opponent, and it is going to get tougher every week,” Sullivan said. “[Stanford is] hands down the most improved [team] over the last couple of years. It’s going to be a matter of us maintaining our focus on offense and scoring points, because you can’t rely on your defense every week.”
The Sun Devils will have to rely on their defense, though, this week if it hopes to slow down the Pac-10’s leading rusher.
Cardinal senior running back Toby Gerhart, brother of ASU sophomore offensive tackle Garth Gerhart, is averaging more than 124 yards per game on the ground, which is good enough for fifth in the nation.
Stanford (4-3, 3-2) will put as many as seven up front in an effort to help the 235-pound power back plow through defenses.
“It’s not a bad idea,” ASU coach Dennis Erickson said of the strategy.
Though Gerhart hobbled off the field against UA on Saturday with an ankle injury, the senior did practice this week, and Stanford head coach Jim Harbaugh said Monday that the star rusher “looked like Toby.”
The matchup along the front line should be a good one, as the Sun Devils are ranked second in the nation against the run (58 yards per game) and haven’t allowed a 100-yard rusher all season.
“I think the reason we’re so good against the run is we are physical, and we can line up and just play base ‘D,’ ” junior defensive tackle Saia Falahola said. “I think we just have that attitude that we want to kill every offense that comes in.”
ASU may be without its leading receiver on Saturday.
Senior Kyle Williams (hamstring) did not practice Thursday, and Erickson said he would decide Friday whether to bring Williams on the trip.
Practicing in Williams’ spot in the slot with the first-team unit on Thursday was freshman Jamal Miles, who made his debut against UW last week and caught two passes for 34 yards.
Sullivan said he is excited about the young wide receiver’s potential.
“He’s lightning. I love the way he plays,” Sullivan said. “Hopefully we can get the ball in his hands a little more and he can make some plays.
Garth Gerhart and sophomore offensive lineman Matt Hustad are likely to return to the lineup against Stanford.
Junior kicker Thomas Weber made a 50-yard field goal in practice on Thursday, and Erickson said the 2007 Lou Groza Award winner is close to full health.
Freshman Bobby Wenzig is expected to continue handling the kickoff duties for the time being.
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