Quietly Falahola having solid season


Posted Oct 21, 2009


Quick, without looking, who leads to the Sun devil defense in tackles for loss? Freshman phenom Vontaze Burfict? How about Lawrence Guy? Or maybe it’s senior defensive end Dexter Davis. The answer to that question may surprise you, but it’s non other than junior defensive tackle Saia Falahola who paces defense with seven stops behind the line of scrimmage for a total of 26 yards.

Quietly the senior has been putting together a very productive year, just as much as any other stars on the stout Arizona State, and Head Coach Dennis Erickson has certainly taken notice.

"Saia has had a great year so far,” Erickson declared. “He just has to keep it going. This (Stanford game) is a huge test for us up-front; believe me, because they are very good on the offensive line. That will be by far our biggest test. He has great quickness and strength, doesn't stay blocked very long. He has great quickness and penetration."

Want to know something else that may surprise you? Falahola also leads to team in sacks with four while Guy and sophomore James Brooks are tied in second with 2.5 apiece.

Recently the Sun Devil front-four has been generating more pressure, including a having the majority of the 12 sacks the team had against Washington State two weeks ago.

When asked what has changed for the group, Falahola admits it’s all about effort.

“Not really anything different,” Falahola said. “I’m playing a lot harder, but honestly we’ve just been working on getting more activity and working through the whistle.”

The ASU defense faces a tough test this Saturday against Stanford and tailback Toby Gerhart who already has 897 yards and 12 touchdowns this season and is a stiff challenge for any opposing defense.

“So far with Stanford, they have that big back, (Toby) Gerhart, and their physical O-line,” Falahola pointed out. “They come out with six O-lineman and just try to maul you, so it’s going to be a physical game.

“The thing is, we just come in and get it done on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday throughout the week. There are a lot power running teams out there like Stanford, but I think if we just play within our game and we come out ready on Saturday that we’ll be able to stop whatever offense comes at us.”

The defense’s job could be a lot easier on Saturday if they can get more big plays like Danny Sullivan’s 50-yard touchdown pass to Chris McGaha that won the game last Saturday against Washington. As good as the defense has been this year; getting more production out of the offense can only make them better.

“It definitely takes off pressure when your offense puts up points,” Falahola admitted. “At the end of the game, that was a real crucial one because if not we would’ve had to put on our extra gear for overtime, which wasn’t a problem, but it was good to see the offense produce some points at the end of the game.”

One of the keys to the Sun Devil defense’s strong play this year has been the exceptional and somewhat unexpected play of the younger guys on the front-seven, with the only upperclassmen of that starting group being Falahola, Davis, and linebackers Mike Nixon and Travis Goethel.

“Me and Dexter are known as veterans on the D-line, everybody is basically really young,” Falahola stated. “We just try to set good examples. They are all ready good technique-wise, that comes pretty natural to them, and we’ve just got to teach them all the other aspects of D-1 football so they can be ready to just dominate as well.”


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