The Arizona State Sun Devils take on yet another FCS foe this Saturday—their neighbors to the north, the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks. The Sun Devils are fresh off a 54-9 win over Portland State in their season opener, but are not taking the NAU Lumberjacks for granted.
ASU and rival UofA switch off years playing Northern Arizona, in which last year the Lumberjacks surprised everyone with a superb performance in a 34-17 loss to the Arizona Wildcats. The Sun Devils are making themselves aware of the talent invested in the Lumberjack team.
Sun Devils' head coach Dennis Erickson stated to the Arizona Republic: "I tell you what, I just watched them on offense [Monday] morning and watched them on defense [Sunday] night; they're very talented."
After seeing what happened to Ole Miss being upset by FCS team Jacksonville State in week one, it is a good mind set for Erickson to have.
Northern Arizona is currently ranked No. 24 in the FCS Coaches Poll after a blowout win against Western New Mexico in its opening game.
The last time the Lumberjacks visited the Sun Devils was in 2008, where they lost to the then ranked No. 15 Arizona State team 30-13. Unlike their fellow conference partner Portland State, the Lumberjacks have shown they can score against the FBS teams.
The Lumberjacks, picked to finish fifth in the Big Sky Conference, are being led by Mississippi transfer quarterback Michael Herrick and true freshman running back Zach Bauman. Herrick completed 15-of-25 for 178 yards and two touchdowns against Western New Mexico, while Bauman rushed for 167 yards and four touchdowns.
Arizona State's quarterback Steven Threet will return to the field after setting a school debut record of completing 14-of-21 passes for 239 yards and two touchdowns, in a game that could be the duel of the two school's talented QB's.
Alongside Threet will be the rushing game that emerged in the Sun Devils' season opener. Running back Cameron Marshall rushed for 104 yards and three touchdowns on four carries—yes, four carries.
While this match-up is really not something to lose sleep over, the Sun Devils are looking to improve on their performance versus Portland State last Saturday.
Two main things to improve on: penalties and dropped passes.
The Sun Devils finished the 2009 season ranked No. 1 in a category—most penalty yards given. Against Portland State, ASU was flagged 11 times for 93 yards, showing no improvement over last season's weakness.
The dropped passes against Portland State mostly came from ASU's most reliable receiving trio in T.J. Simpson, Mike Willie and Aaron Pflugrad. Willie's dropped pass cost the Sun Devils a touchdown, and other's, first down opportunities.
A plus for the Sun Devils?
Wide receiver Gerell Robinson practiced for the first time in a month after battling a hamstring injury, and could be back to start this week against Northern Arizona.
Erickson is being cautious about the return of the explosive wide receiver, not wanting to rush things and have a recurrence of the injury—a wise move on Erickson's part before heading to take on the AP ranked No. 11 Wisconsin Badgers on Sept. 18.
The Arizona State Sun Devils take on the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks Saturday, Sept. 11 at 10:00 p.m. ET, 7:00 p.m. Arizona Time.