The Arizona State Sun Devils have had an up-and-down seven games thus far in 2015. A victory over a top-10 UCLA team on the road is largely overshadowed by defeats to USC and Texas A&M.
One unit that has stayed consistent — and consistently good — has been the ASU front seven.
The Sun Devils have locked horns with some of the best offenses -- and skill position players -- in the nation, and have held their own with the best. They held Paul Perkins to just 63 rushing yards while containing Utah star running back Devontae Booker for three quarters.
"I've felt like since Texas A&M, we have dominated the line of scrimmage," said ASU defensive coordinator Keith Patterson. "It doesn't surprise me, we put a major emphasis on it last spring. We played a lot of base defense last spring and it's paying great dividends this year. Our kids have placed an emphasis on stopping the run. When you do that, you gain that much more confidence."
The Sun Devils have accumulated 69 tackles for loss and 24 sacks this season. Salamo Fiso has 50 solo tackles and leads the conference with 13.5 tackles for loss. Even though D.J. Calhoun only has 16 total tackles, he has 4.5 tackles for loss and four sacks this season.
Calhoun, despite not seeing a large amount of snaps, stood out on Saturday against the Utes.
"D.J. Calhoun played 12 plays, out of the 12 plays he had two quarterbacks sacks, two tackles for loss, three tackles and a quarterback hit," Patterson said. "By my count, eight of the 12 plays he hit the person with the ball."
The next challenge for the Arizona State front seven is the Oregon Ducks and running back Royce Freeman. The sophomore from Imperial, Calif., leads the Pac-12 with 997 rushing yards and also has nine touchdowns on the ground. Freeman is averaging 6.6 yards per carry and has rushed for at least 130 yards in four games this season.
"[Oregon has] explosive playmakers on the perimeter, at quarterback and at running back," Patterson said. "They have a big offensive line. I think the running back (Freeman) is if you combine Booker and Perkins that is probably what you have. He makes you tackle him every down."
Like many teams in college football, Oregon runs a spread, up tempo offense. The Ducks were one of the first teams to run the spread for the upwards of a decade, they have done it has good as any team in the country.
"The tempo and the pace in which they play the game. They play fast," Patterson said about Oregon's spread attack. "They keep things pretty simple in the running game. When they can stretch the field and attack you up the middle I think that is what makes them so difficult."
The Sun Devils do have an extra week to prepare for Oregon, as the two teams will meet on Oct. 29 in Sun Devil Stadium. ASU will practice tomorrow before taking Friday and Saturday off.