The Arizona State Sun Devils face perhaps their biggest challenge of the season this Saturday when the team travels to Palo Alto to play Stanford. The Cardinal are ranked No. 5 in both the AP and the USA Today Coaches Poll.
Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan is a perfect 7-0 as a starter, and Todd Graham sees a lot of Taylor Kelly in the Stanford signal caller.
After Tuesday's practice I interviewed co-defensive coordinator Paul Randolph about his thoughts on his defense through two games and his upcoming opponent.
Ryan Bafaloukos: What are your thoughts on how the defense played against Wisconsin?
Paul Randolph: I thought the guys played hard, I thought we played extremely physical. I thought we made way too many mistakes, missed assignments, missed keys, things of that nature. Those are the things we have to improve on this week going against Stanford but all in all I thought the guys battled and I thought their attitude on the sidelines was poised and they fought all the way through.
RB: Through two games, what have you seen in terms of the attention Will Sutton has been garnering and which players are taking advantage of that?
PR: There is no doubt when you have a player like Will Sutton, teams are going to know where he is located. There is no doubt that Car Bradford is going to benefit from playing on the same side as Will. Naturally it gives Gannon Conway and Davon Coleman single blocks. The entire defensive front seven benefits from Will.
RB: With only two sacks through two games, do you have any concerns about the pass rush?
PR: Not at all, I think we are pressuring the quarterback extremely well and they are doing a good job getting rid of it. But we are in his lap, so I think we just need to continue timing our pressures and things of that nature. Naturally we want the sack but we will take caused interceptions before sacks. We say impact the quarterback, and that is sacking him, that is batting balls down and that is making him move and impact him every which way we can.
HoS: When you watch Stanford what stands out?
PR: They know who they are. Coach Graham was talking about they are in their seventh or eighth year since (Jim) Harbaugh and now (David) Shaw and they know their identity. They play to their strengths and that's smash mouth football and play action shots. They do what they do and they do it extremely well. That's what stands out to me, they know how to attack their opponent. They are not going to beat themselves, they are a disciplined team in execution and in penalties. They are going to play a physical brand of football.
RB: Todd Graham says that Kevin Hogan reminds him of Taylor Kelly. He is undefeated as a starter, what is the key to having success against Hogan?
PR: Truthfully it is keeping him in the pocket and not allowing him to tuck the ball and run. He can move the chains, which means getting first downs, on third downs and those are the things that are backbreakers for defenses. You have to contain him but you also have to keep him in the pocket and not let him become a duel-threat which is what Taylor Kelly does when he is at his best. We have to make sure that we have him corralled up and we are patient and doing what we are supposed to be doing in our rush lanes and things of that nature.
RB: The Stanford offensive line has four seniors, what do you think is the biggest challenge in going up against them?
PR: I think just battling for four quarters. They are going to be in front of you, they are not going to trick you. We have to go get after them every single snap. When you are looking at that size, we just have to be physical and have a physical mindset so we are still the attacking defense that we have always been and that's what we do.