(Photo: Scotty Bara/WCSN)
The reeling Arizona State defense faces one of their most difficult challenges on Saturday, going up against one of the top quarterbacks in the Pac-12, Josh Rosen.
Rosen, a sophomore who is known not only for his superb potential but also for being an outspoken presence off the field, has had an up-and-down season for the 3-2 Bruins.
Just two years ago, he was the most highly touted high school quarterback in the country. He threw for 23 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in his true freshman season, but has just eight TDs to four INTs this year.
It’s tough to attribute the drop off to something specific right now, but Rosen will have a golden opportunity to pad his numbers this weekend against a Sun Devil defense that has allowed more passing yards per game than any other team in the country.
Not only that, but ASU as a team has surrendered 35.6 points per game in their first five contests, so the defense still has a long way to go.
The success of the Sun Devil defense has hinged on its ability to stop offenses towards the conclusion of the game, something they couldn’t do much of against USC because the deficit was already too large. In order to avoid falling into that hole again, the Sun Devils will have to do something they haven’t shown yet this season, which is to stop their offense in the first half.
Cornerback Gump Hayes knows that Rosen is a proven quarterback, but thinks the defense is ready for him.
“Coach (Todd) Graham put a game plan together, and we just have to stick with it,” Hayes said. “Whatever he wants us to do, that’s what we have to do.”
For both teams, this will serve as a pivotal conference game, as they both stand at 1-1 in an up-for-grabs Pac-12 South. An improved effort from the Sun Devils pass defense is imperative. The Bruins don’t run as well as they pass, UCLA is just 116th in the country in rushing yards per game, so solving Rosen can lead to a lot of success defensively. Hayes mentioned that the defense is going to want to focus on forcing them to run more often than pass.
More than simple adjustments are going to be needed for a defense that gave up 352 passing yards to Sam Darnold, who was making only his second career start, last week.
What is working in the Sun Devils favor is that Rosen had a bit of a tough game against them last season. He completed only 22 of his 40 passes in a 38-23 ASU win. Their ability to contain him last year is something defensive coordinator Keith Patterson believes they can carry over into their matchup on Saturday.
“We played with incredible passion in that game,” Patterson said. “We showed up and had a mental focus about ourselves. We were very aggressive up front. He’s probably the best quarterback, just pure pocket passing, pro style quarterback, that I’ve seen.”
-Brady White practiced with the first team during 11-on-0. Manny Wilkins was seen walking gingerly on the sidelines with a taped ankle.
-N’Keal Harry, Tim White, and Jalen Harvey lined up at wide receiver with the first team, while Cam Smith worked with the second team.
-Nick Ralston served as the running back alongside White during 11-on-0. Neither Demario Richard nor Kalen Ballage participated in the drill.