In the history of football, a team has never won scoring zero points. Plenty of fans have griped about the Arizona State offense’s lackluster start to the season.
Eno Benjamin barely eclipsed 100 rushing yards in the season opener against Kent State. The star running back then needed to turn a seven-yard catch into a 72-yard score for Arizona State’s lone touchdown in the win over Sacramento State.
When head coach Herm Edwards decided to predicate the offense through Benjamin last season it worked with a lot of success. Now, the running game has been a struggle. Benjamin has tried to make the best in front of him, but the offensive line is attempting to mesh as quickly as possible. It may not be quick enough, and offensive coordinator Rob Likens spoke honestly about his feelings toward the group.
“Offensive lineman, honestly, in developed programs where you want it to be, most of the time, you don’t even see those guys until they’re redshirt juniors,” Likens said. “Offensive linemen, it takes longer for them to develop than any other position, you know, you can get away with playing young receivers, young running backs, like that you can even get away at times playing a young quarterback but offensive lineman just takes time and it’s good, we’re gonna have to develop those guys, we’re gonna have to protect them in what we do and so it’s not going to be easy.”
After facing lower tier teams for the first two weeks, the Sun Devils head to Michigan State on Saturday. The Spartans have been a wall against the rush thus far, as they’ve not allowed positive net yardage. They currently lead the FBS in rush defense will negative six yards allowed.
The offensive leader Cohl Cabral is more optimistic than Likens about the group.
“It’s just all coming back to being comfortable up there,” Cabral said. “Having new guys out there that are still trying to understand how to play this game at a high level, it takes time to get used to. And everyone starts clicking, like we have in years past, where last year we had a lot of older guys that have been playing that understood that, makes it a little easier to go out and be able to play that way. But when you’ve still got guys that are learning how to do it, it’s going to take time, and once it starts clicking for them, then I think it’ll start to take off.”
Likens will need to be more creative than the past two weeks. Attempting to run down teams throats hasn’t work, and taking a wild guess, it probably won’t succeed against the best team in the nation versus the run.
He’ll need to get Benjamin more into the open, as the 72-yard touchdown displayed good things happen with that. Doing that will also make more space for Jayden Daniels and the passing attack. If Benjamin can’t get the wheels rolling, the Spartans will push back their ears and rush the already struggling line. For a true freshman in his first road game, that sounds like a disaster waiting to happen.
How quickly the Sun Devil offense can get forward, the better results they’ll see. In the Spartans first two games, being up by 20 points before allowing the opposite to score helps create the situations and stats they’ve had thus far. Edwards pointed out the idea of getting going fast.
“I’ll tell you what, this defense is pretty good. It really is,” he said. “It doesn’t give you a lot of room, whether you’re running the football or throwing the football. And I think patience is going to be the key. Just like last year, it was not an offensive juggernaut game for either side. I don’t think it was kind of one of those type games. We were fortunate enough to make some plays in the red zone, we got some turnovers, we turned one over too, going the other way. And then we had the ball at the end...
“This game will be a little bit different because we’re on the road, you know, they’re going to have a packed crowd and, you know, be excited. And so we got to learn how to play on the road. And this is our first test with a lot of young guys. It’ll be interesting to see how they react, because we’ve been at home for the first two games, and now we got to go on the road.”
The only way to see if the offense is ready to battle is at 1 p.m. on Saturday, the game can be seen on FS1.