ASU benches the monster

MADISON WI - SEPTEMBER 18: John Clay #32 of the Wisconsin Badgers is tackled by the face mask by Vontaze Burfict #7 of the Arizona State Sun Devils at Camp Randall Stadium on September 18 2010 in Madison Wisconsin. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Arizona State comes to town Saturday night with an improved offense and the same type of nasty defense that led the conference in personal fouls last season. The Devils are 2-3 on the season but losses to Wisconsin, Oregon, and Oregon State could all have gone the other way if ASU could eliminate mistakes like turnovers and penalties.

Last years game in Tempe erupted into a free for all penalty fest. The Sun Devils strategy was to take the Washington offense out of the game by making them so mad that they couldn't execute. The strategy worked and ASU won the game on a last second hail mary pass for a touchdown.

Fast forward to this season and the Sun Devils are using the same type of strategy to intimidate opponents. LB Vontaze Burfict is the leader of this defense. He won't be starting on Saturday because Erickson is punishing him for a dead ball personal foul he committed against Oregon State QB Ryan Katz. Sr Gerald Munns will start in his place.

"That can't continue to happen," Erickson said of Burfict's frequent personal fouls. "If it does, he just won't play. That's where it's at right now. We've been talking to him for a long time, and we'll continue to do that. Munnsy will start because of that, and Vontaze will play some."

Erickson goes on to say that opponents have been baiting Burfict this season which makes sense because every time he goes off it results in 15 yards and a first down. Burfict's penalties are part of the reason ASU ranks No. 116 nationally in penalties per game and No. 118 in penalty yards.

Burfict may not start on Saturday but he is expected to play quite a bit. I can't imagine Erickson sitting him for more than a series or two. Take away the bad comportment and Burfict is the conferences best linebacker, most intimidating, and talented defensive player.

Erickson has put together talented, trash talking, and intimidating defenses at every one of his college stops. Last years defense may have been the most infamous from a personal foul perspective in his career. In a season where he had no offense he had to create a monster on the defensive side to make up for it.

The problem Erickson is having is the monster he created last season is now out of control. Those penalties that were intimidating enough to take an opposing offense out of its comfort zone last season are a major culprit in three ASU losses this season. Erickson knows it has to be turned around and that is the reason that Burfict won't be starting on Saturday.
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