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ASU Football: Herm Edwards press conference notebook (11/4)

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A look at the Trojans

American Century Championship - Previews Photo by Jonathan Devich/Getty Images

The final stretch of the college football season has come upon us. The Sun Devils prepare for the last month of the season’s slate of games. The first test of November in the form of the USC Trojans. Head coach Herm Edwards used his weekly press conference to talk about them.

A talented wide receiver core

The trio of Michael Pittman Jr., Tyler Vaughns and Amon-Ra St. Brown has been insanely productive this season. All three having over 40 catches, 450 yards and four touchdowns this year. Edwards also wanted to point out that all are tall (above 6-foot-1) and will high point the ball for the catch.

“It’s like anything else. It’s the ball that goes down the field,” Edwards said. “The high ball. How many can we contest? Because they’re going to throw into tight coverage and figure their guy is going to come down with the ball. It’s no different than last year when we have N’Keal. N’Keal was covered but he wasn’t covered. Throw it to him. That’s what I used to tell Manny (Wilkins). ‘If you’re stuck just throw it to (Harry). If you’re stuck and everybody is covered just throw it up in the air and we’ve probably got a 70 percent chance he’s going to catch it. Right?’ That’s what USC is going to do. We have to make some plays. They’re going to catch some but we have to make some plays too. It has to be one of those kinds of deals and you have to be aware of that.”

Mentality leading into Saturday

A lot of the Sun Devil roster has a South California influence. And whether it be playing high school friends or having a chance to play against the more historic football program that might have not sent out an offer. There’s a good chance there are players backed by emotion. Edwards talked about that as well.

“Well, I think any time you play an opponent like USC, you want to understand how difficult it is,” he said. “The talent they have, you have to be firing on all cylinders, all three phases. No different than last year’s game, it came down to a three-point game, a very competitive football game. I think for a lot of the young guys, they’ve never played USC. So a lot of our kids are from Los Angeles, as you guys know, so this is kind of a place that they’ve kind of grown up understanding the history and all the stuff that goes with USC. And they’re going to get to play them, so that’ll be kind of fun to watch.”

Third-and-short situations

In the loss to UCLA, the inability to convert short yardage plays on third downs killed plenty of Sun Devil drives. Offensive coordinator Rob Likens said after the game he was going to put a lot of time and effort into finding a way to convert them going forward. Edwards gave his take on the struggles and the reasons behind them.

“I think one thing, when you become a little predictable I think, third-and-shorts, people kind of anticipate,” Edwards said. “You’re going to put seven guys in the box, they’re going to not allow you to run into the A- or B-gaps, so what are you going to do? You get the push, or they get the push on you. It’s a matter of will, basically, when you go for third-and-1s or fourth-and-1s, if you’re going to run the football. Can you get push, or do they get push? And if they beat you off the punch, they’re in the backfield and you’re not going to gain yards. So it boils down to that, I mean, at the end, it’s guy against guy. That’s football, can I knock a man off his spot when I have to? It’s important.

“And the same way defense goes, can I knock this guy off his spot and penetrate and get into the backfield? You know, the runners are basically seven yards behind the line of scrimmage. So you handle the ball, they got to get at least five yards before they get a yard, right? And if you get penetration, it’s very difficult. You saw that in the game ‘SC versus Oregon. Oregon tried to run it down there on the 1 (-yard line), they penetrated, and it was a loss of three yards. You know, because they got a big front, big powerful front that can knock you off the ball.... It just happens, if they beat you inside the gap and they get a crease, it’s going to be a negative play.”