We've all heard it by now, the Arizona State run defense hasn't been up to par.
The biggest test of all comes into Tempe on Saturday, as Bishop Sankey (the country's leading per game rusher) tries to expose the Sun Devils' defensive weakness. Sankey has carried the rock 159 times for 899 yards and nine touchdowns.
The incredible results were expected. Sankey posted 1,429 yards and 16 touchdowns on the ground in 2012. The junior running back isn't too imposing but he can routinely run over linebackers and burst through the hole quickly. The blend of those two traits makes him special.
"Our main thing is obviously we're playing one of the best running backs [Sankey] in the country," Todd Graham said. "We got to stop the running back first. Sankey is the guy we got to stop."
Besides keying in on Sankey, Huskies' tight end Austin Seferian-Senkins also presents difficult matchup problems. Graham compared Seferian-Jenkins to Notre Dame tight end Troy Niklas, who tallied three receptions, 49 yards and one touchdown against ASU. Most consider Seferian-Jenkins to be even better, therefore he earned preseason All-American honors.
"[Seferian-Jenkins] is one of their many talented players. We got to do a great job of fundamentally cutting off receivers vertically," Graham said. "He's real similar to the guy from Notre Dame. Big target, catches a lot of seem patterns. Big guy, does a good job blocking. And a guy they look to throw the ball to, especially when they get inside the 10."
"It's [Washington] the fastest team we are going to play. It's one of the most talented teams we are going to play to this point," Graham said.
For the actual game plan, the theme of no turnovers and penalties continues. Graham doesn't think ASU can afford those types of mistakes against Washington.
"We got to win the turnover battle. We got to win the penalty battle. That's the key [turnovers] in every week," Graham said. "Every week you hear me say the same things over, and over and over. Takeaways will be big. We got to have 100 percent ball security."
The significance of the game isn't something ASU fears. The ESPN Pac-12 Blog called it must wins for both teams, and Graham echoed similar sentiments. Both teams head into the clash at 4-2, and losses would severely cripple their chances at winning their respective Pac-12 divisions.
"If you win this game, I think we have got a good chance to be a double-digit win team. A team that could play for the Pac-12 championship," Graham said. "And if you don't win this game, then it's not good. So I think this game is the pivotal point of the season."
"It's a top 20 team in the country. Man this is it. We've worked all year, all your career for this game. That's how important I think it's."
Other Practice Notes
- Llyod Carrington and Robert Nelson split time with the first unit. Carrington has been playing well lately and may have surpassed Nelson on the depth cart at cornerback.
- ASU averages 44.2 points per game and Washington averages 35.2 points per game. Therefore, Graham envisions the contest to be rather high scoring.
- Marcus Ball appears doubtful to make his collegiate debut. On the bright side, Ball will be the sole player not suited up for the Maroon and Gold, excluding Junior Onyeali.
- Jaxon Hood feels significantly better than last week, and expects to produce better because of his improvements.