Cal Poly Mustangs (1-0) vs. Arizona State Sun Devils (0-1)
Kickoff: 11 p.m. ET/8 p.m. PT
Television: Pac-12 Networks (JB Long, Evan Moore, Drea Avant)
Radio: ESPN Phoenix 620 (Tim Healey, Jeff Van Raaphorst, Doug Franz)
Weather: Saturday calls for mostly sunny skies with a high of 105 and a low of 83 degrees. The tempature should be in the mid-80's around kickoff.
Series History: ASU leads 3-0
What ASU is Wearing: We know ASU will be wearing maroon jerseys, however we do not know what color their helmets or pants will be. Traditionally, ASU wears gold helmets, maroon jerseys and gold pants in their home openers.
Cal Poly in 2015: The Cal Poly Mustangs upset the Montana Grizzlies last week in their first game of 2015. Redshirt freshman walk-on kicker Alex Vega hit a 49-yard field goal with four seconds left to put the Mustangs ahead 20-19. The Mustangs rose to No. 18 in the FCS media poll and No. 20 in the FCS Coaches Poll after they were in the "receiving votes" category to start the year.
Senior quarterback Chris Brown ran for 130 yards in the victory, including a 60-yard touchdown run. Brown completed 4-of-12 passes for just 56 yards, 36 of those coming on a touchdown pass to Roland Jackson Jr. Sophomore fullback Joe Protheroe rushed for 112 yards in Cal Poly's triple option attack.
On the defensive side of the ball, senior linebacker Tu'uta Inoke earned FCS National Player of the Week honors last week, racking up 16 total tackles, two forced fumbles and a quarterback hurry. Junior safety B.J. Nard intercepted three passes in Cal Poly's victory.
ASU on Offense: Many fans were left searching answers after last week's 38-17 defeat at the hands of Texas A&M. The Sun Devils mustered just 291 total yards, Mike Bercovici was sacked nine times and the Texas A&M defense racked up 14 tackles for loss.
"When I went back and reevaluated, long story short, you know, we did a lot of things to beat ourselves, and everything on that film can be corrected," head coach Todd Graham said. "Now the thing in the game that was the biggest factor was their prep-ability. Our young tackles not able to block their defensive ends, and I think there are some things that we learned from that as well that we can correct and help ourselves out. Fumbled the ball five times and turned it over twice. Didn't throw an interception."
Perhaps the most alarming aspect on Saturday's defeat wast the play of the offensive line. Both offensive tackles, Evan Goodman and Billy McGehee were dominated and the interior of the offensive line did not fare much better. However, as Graham pointed out, ASU may not face a more talented defensive front than they did in their opener.
"Obviously some of the things in the run game is the key to establishing that," Graham said of the pass protection. "We knew going in we had two young tackles. I thought Evan and Billy, they did some really good things. What we did really, really poorly is allow the guys to jump the count. I mean, I don't care who is playing tackle, you can't allow people to do that. That's something that with the crowd noise was an issue."
Demario Richard carried the ball 16 times for 73 yards. However, D.J. Foster and De'Chevon "Gump" Hayes combined for just 19 yards on 10 carries.
The lack of a vertical passing game was also a concern against Texas A&M. At one point in the game, Mike Bercovici had six completions for just 28 yards. Bercovici finished 25-for-44 for 199 yards, averaging just 7.96 yards per completion.
"I think one of the things we stress is getting first downs, and I think we came up inches, half yards, yards short of third down, so that's what really gets this offense going," Bercovici said. "Pass rush or not, my job as a quarterback is to get the ball out and not take sacks."
Even though it is Bercovici's job to get the ball out to the playmakers on the offense, it is difficult to accomplish that when the receivers can't get open and the offensive line could not hold their blocks.
Players to Watch
De'Chavon "Gump" Hayes: Much was expected out of Hayes coming into the season, especially from this writer. "Gump" was used primarily how D.J. Foster was used in 2014. He received seven carries and caught six passes. Normally, those numbers are solid, however he mustered just 19 total yards on those 13 touches. Hayes also returned three punts for just 21 yards.
Now, not all of that is his fault, if the holes aren't there it is difficult to create space against the speed of the Texas A&M defense. Hayes predicted two touchdowns to the media on Tuesday and with Kalen Ballage seemingly going to miss his second straight game with mono, Hayes should have plenty of opportunities. Expect more out of "Gump" in this game.
ASU Wide Receivers: Clearly, the ASU wide receivers had a difficult time creating space down the field, that affected the vertical passing game. ASU completed just two passes for over 20 yards against Texas A&M. The ASU wide receivers should have an easier time getting open against FCS Cal Poly and that should open the vertical passing game.
Evan Goodman/Sam Jones: Goodman started at left tackle and was dominated by Myles Garrett. That is nothing to be ashamed of, Garrett may be the No. 1 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. However, Goodman was in a non-contact jersey most of the week and Todd Graham hinted to the media Thursday that redshirt freshman Sam Jones may start at left tackle. Whoever is there, expect a better showing from the ASU offensive line.
ASU on Defense: The ASU defense was the surprise of the Texas A&M game. Yes, they surrendered 38 points, but they kept ASU in the game despite the offense putting them in difficult positions most of the game. One group that played particularly well was the cornerback duo of Kweishi Brown and Llyod Carrington.
"Both our corners graded out 98% and 96%. 23 points a piece," Graham said. "I mean, if you had asked me going in the game my biggest concern, I thought, was their receivers, how would we match up there. I think that was pretty impressive how those guys played."
Brown and safety Jordan Simone both recorded interceptions and with the exception of Christian Kirk taking a bubble-screen 66 yards for a touchdown, the ASU secondary held the A&M wide receivers in check.
This week, the Sun Devils will face a unique challenge: The triple option. Cal Poly runs an offense that is similar to Navy and Army. Against Montana, the Mustangs ran the ball 76 times for 330 yards compared to just 13 pass attempts for 56 yards.
The key to defending the triple option is staying committed to assignments. Where defenses stumble is when players are out of position, leaving a runner uncovered and running free.
Good new for ASU is that their front seven is filled with experience and the unit had a strong performance against Texas A&M.
"Ami Latu, wow, Tashon Smallwood, Demetrius Cherry, JoJo Wicker, wow," Graham said. "He (Wicker) had a couple of critical errors that hurt us on some stunts, but, man, that kid. Boateng played his best game. They totally dominated the line of scrimmage."
Salamo Fiso: Graham praised reporters at his Monday press conference for his intelligence. Fiso runs the ASU defense from the field. It will be Fiso's responsibility to make sure everybody is lineup properly and everybody knows their assignments.
ASU Cornerbacks: No, Cal Poly is not going to throw the football much. It is unlikely that the Mustangs attempt 20 passes, that being said the ASU cornerbacks are important. Both Brown and Carrington will play a vital role in run support Saturday night. They will have to set the edge and force Cal Poly runners inside. It's also important for Brown and Carrington to tackle in space.
Look for ASU to score early and often as they try to make a statement to the local fans and media that last Saturday was the exception. The Sun Devils have not taken games against FCS opponents lightly under Todd Graham and this game should not be any different.
It will be interested to see if ASU is able to more the ball vertically and what how D.J. Foster is going to be used. With Ballage expected to miss another game, expect Foster to be used more in the backfield.
Prediction: ASU 55, Cal Poly 10