Despite playing roughly two of eight quarters up to its standard, No. 23 Arizona State is comfortably 2-0 after hosting two non-conference “cupcakes” to start the season. On Monday, coach Herm Edwards made one thing clear: Playing at BYU on Saturday night will not be a cupcake.
“They’re obviously a very, very good football team. Very well coached, they have athletes on both sides of the ball,” Edwards said. “The quarterback is a ‘wow’ guy. He can make some plays with his legs and has a great arm. He does a really good job making plays off schedule. They have a big ol’ offensive line that can push you around, defense doesn’t give up a lot of points. They’re a very sound football team, and it shows with what they’ve done these last couple years.”
Hitting the Road
The Sun Devils hit the road for the first time this season, and the atmosphere in Provo, Utah is a hostile one.
“They’ve got a great fan base, and it’s going to be loud. You couldn’t go into a better venue when you think about college football, they have a great venue and they do a great job supporting their team. We better be ready to play because it’s going to take four quarters. “
More to be Desired in Passing Game
There’s been no shortage of praise heaped upon the Arizona State run game, and rightfully so. The program is 10-1 under Edwards when rushing for 200+ yards, and the importance of backfield duo of Rachaad White and DeaMonte Trayanum cannot be overstated. A balanced offensive attack, however, is also key to winning big games, especially when conference opponents force an offense to showcase its dual threat capabilities. Edwards addressed some shortcomings in the passing game during the first two weeks.
“We haven’t made a lot of explosive plays, and you want to do that in the passing game. I talked to Jayden (Daniels) today about what we’re trying to become. He’s gotta be familiar with who he’s playing with. I’m not trying to make excuses but it’s just a fact he’s played six games with these receivers, and four of them were last year. We’ve been fortunate enough to have receivers drafted in the last few years. Two first-round picks before Frank (Darby), so there’s always been a guy, and we have to figure out who that guy is.”
Keys to Weathering the Opposing Crowd
ASU’s first two contests have not only been against far weaker teams, but they’ve also been aided by the support of the Sun Devil faithful in the friendly confines of Sun Devil Stadium. Edwards knows a thing or two about taking the home crowd out of the game when you’re on the road.
“You better not get off to a bad start,” he said. “Then you’re fighting two elements, the 11 guys on the field, and the crowd. To me, it’s can you get on the field offensively and make some first downs? You don’t even have to score, just make some first downs. You’d be surprised, all of a sudden the crowd gets quiet. They’ll get loud on third downs, they’ll get quiet when you convert. You gotta move the ball. If you go three and out… uh oh. You have to move the ball.”
A number of guys have been banged up, but ASU has been fortunate enough to avoid serious injury. Edwards expressed optimism regarding freshman wide receiver Elijah badger and graduate transfer defensive back Timarcus Davis returning to the field this week. Omarr Norman-Lott is expected to be available this week after missing the UNLV game.
As far as the all important running backs, coach expects both Deamonte Trayanum (ankle) and Daniyel Ngata (Thumb) to be a full go for Saturday’s game.
“As far as I know they’re good to go,” he said with a masked grin. “Unless one of them has tummy-ache or something this week.”
Rocky Mountain High
Beautiful Provo, Utah sits at 4,551 feet above sea level, an increase of over 3,000 feet from Tempe. While the difference is certainly noteworthy, Arizona State isn’t worried about it.
“I’ve never talked about altitude,” Edwards said. “We’re going to play a football game we’re in shape to play a football game. Everybody breathes the same air, let’s just go play.”
When they return from BYU, the Sun Devils will embark on a nine game Pac-12 schedule that includes challenging road games at UCLA, Utah, and Washington. If they want to achieve their rosey red postseason goals, consistently winning away from home will be vital.