It’s easy to keep hoping for Jayden Daniels and the passing offense to breakout, especially against the Arizona Wildcats on Friday. However, the easiest path to keeping the Territorial Cup is running the football.
Arizona State’s 2020 season has been far from great. Nevertheless, the Sun Devils have ran the ball with incredible efficiency. Chip Trayanum and Rachaad White have each averaged over 6.5 yards per carry in Arizona State’s two games this season.
“They’ve been really consistent. Very consistent. Both of them are very tough backs,” offensive coordinator Zak Hill said. “So we feel really good about our running back corps right now and their ability to break tackles, stay on their feet, keep their balance. I’m sure the yards-after-contact was pretty high and it’s fun to watch those guys run. They’re, right now, the most consistent part of this offense.”
The pair is now facing a Wildcat defense that has given up over 270 rushing yards per game and fresh off allowing a 300-yard performance to Colorado’s Jarek Broussard.
Last week, UCLA stacked the box a few times against the Sun Devils and saw little success. Guard Dohnovan West credited the team’s determination to running the ball for success versus the Bruins and one can assume that in a rivalry game, it’ll still be there.
“I think one of the things that enabled that was our willpower,” West said. “Even though they stacked the box, I feel like we did a pretty good job of moving the defenders off the line of scrimmage as well as the running backs making people miss and getting yards after contact. I feel like us doing our job and the running backs doing their thing, it all worked out pretty well.”
Trayanum and White have used every inch the offensive line has provided and more. According to Sun Devil Athletics, Trayanum has had 110 yards after contact, while White has 106.
A large chunk of Trayanum’s carries, 39.3 percent, have either gone for a touchdown or a first down.
Daniels’ ability to run also adds into the scheme. Arizona coach Kevin Sumlin talked earlier in the week about Daniels’ ability to run after the quarterback added 62 yards on the ground last season against Arizona.
“Jayden Daniels is a very, very talented player, and can do things with his legs, do things with his arm,” Sumlin said. “They’ve got some real good skill players for what they do, RPO stuff. Obviously he can operate at a high level when he gets going.”
Daniels has the talent to win the game with his arm, there’s no doubt about that. However, a mistake that Arizona State made last week was asking him to throw the ball 35 times. The running game has been too effective this season for Daniels to carry such a heavy load.
Trayanum and White should be able to continue their high-level play against Arizona. The game plan should be as simple as running the ball early and often, and it should lead to the Sun Devils running home from Tucson with the Cup.