(Photo: Scotty Bara/WCSN)
Little un-trite news surfaced from Tuesday’s ASU football practice—all players who were dinged up in Saturday’s contest appeared in practice in full capacity, the running game has finally been restored with Taylor Kelly reopening the read option and Demario Richard providing a youthful energy, the defense continues to grow and mature, and Jaelen Strong continues to toy with opposing defensive backs.
Thus, for the sake of keeping the content fresh and forward-looking, let us delve into the coaches’ mindsets in gearing up towards Saturday’s bout against Oregon State.
Graham: Collapse in Corvallis not a possibility.
“On Tuesday each week, we spend a lot of time getting ready for what Oregon State’s going to do,” head coach Todd Graham said. “Guys moved around well today, thought we had a solid practice. Our key is improvement each day, trying to get better, and this team has done that.”
With the Sun Devils now clear of the most trying part of their 2014 schedule, and fresh off a monumental win over No. 10 Notre Dame last week, the immediate question that surfaces is whether or not there is a possibility of a letdown. ASU has been in this situation a myriad of times this season, particularly when the team was tasked with travelling to Seattle to face the unranked Washington Huskies, fresh off back-to-back emotional wins over two ranked teams in USC and Stanford.
Though the Sun Devils have averted any semblance of a letdown to this point, the win over Notre Dame was arguably the biggest non-conference win in school history and certainly has generated an immense amount of buzz. With that being said, Graham quickly dismissed the possibility of a letdown.
“Everybody asks that, every week, all year long. You’re dealing with 18-to-22-year-old-young men. You reap what you sow. I think we’ve sown really strong relationships with them. I think they understand and are very humble. They also respect the opponents they are playing. If you want to win a championship you have to go play every week and that is a challenge,” Graham said.
Graham went on to laud Oregon State coach Mike Riley in his efforts with his Beaver squad.
“We know we are facing, in my opinion, one of the best coaches in the Pac-12 (who) always does a tremendous job,” Graham said. “(They are) a team that is a very blue collar, physical, tough team, and has had some misfortune. They are very capable and we’ve got a lot riding. So we have to find a way to get on that plane and go get a win.”
Norvell: Stats don’t tell the full story of the 2014 Beaver defense
Perhaps one of the most telling statistics of Oregon State’s 2014 season is the lack of correlation between the defense’s yards allowed and points allowed.
Oregon State’s defense bests that of ASU in yards allowed per game, as their 385-yard average ranks 57th in the nation compared to ASU’s 397-yard average that ranks 66th in the nation. The stats become a bit more mystifying when it is noted that ASU only gives up 24.9 points per game, while Oregon State gives up 29.8.
Oregon State’s somewhat stout defense in yards allowed, yet flimsy defense in points allowed, could be attributed to an underachieving offense that routinely plagues the defense with poor field position, or a punting unit that ranks 100th in the country.
Regardless, it is clear that the defense has held its own for the majority of the season, and offensive coordinator Mike Norvell acknowledged that:
“You look at their defense, they’re not giving up a lot of yards—one of the better defenses (in terms of) yards per game,” Norvell said. “They’ve given up a probably a couple more points than they’ve wanted to, but it’s a defense that’s very sound. I’ve got a tremendous amount of respect for their defensive coaching staff. They do a great job schematically, and their guys play hard, they play within the system.”
“This is going to be a physical football game, no question about it,” Norvell continued. “Every year we’ve ever played them it’s been close, it’s been tight. The team that comes out and establishes the physicality, is able to control the game, is going to be the team that wins. Last time we went up there, they physically got after us. So we know the challenge that’s been in front of us.”
Defensive Line: Marcus Hardison (End), Ami Latu (Tackle), Mo Latu (Nose Tackle), Demetrius Cherry (End)
Linebackers: Antonio Longino (WILL), Salamo Fiso (SAM), Laiu Moeakiola (SPUR)
Cornerbacks: Kweishi Brown (Boundary), Lloyd Carrington (Field)
Safeties: Jordan Simone (Bandit), Damarious Randall (Field)
- Jaxon Hood was not in attendance on Tuesday, marking the beginning of his second week of missed practices.
- Jordan Simone was in a limited contact gold jersey. Graham said that since the quarterbacks get to wear those, the other players like to as well occasionally. In other words, Simone is not injured.
- Graham reiterated his view on the College Football playoff and on rankings in general, saying that rankings are meaningless until the end of the season and that he would like to see the playoff incorporate all five major conference champions.
- The accolades keep piling up for quarterback Taylor Kelly, as he was named a finalist for both the Senior CLASS Award and the Wuerffel Trophy on Tuesday. The awards honor student-athletes who have notched achievements in the community, classroom, character and competition, and the college football athlete who exhibits exemplary community service, respectively.
- Though offensive coordinator Mike Norvell is pleased with the offense’s progression with Taylor Kelly back under center, he stated, “We have to get better on third downs and continue to execute there. Just the details. We did a great job in the red zone… but the one drive we didn’t score a touchdown on, we had a missed opportunity on the touchdown catch and a read that we could have done a better job on to get the ball in the end zone. That’s something that we’re going to continue to work on. The execution is always key, the tempo is always key. I’m expecting the offense to continue to get better.”