(Photo: Brett Deckert/WCSN)
Over the first four games of the season, the Sun Devils carried the ball 197 times for 946 yards and 16 touchdowns. On the heels of such a potent rushing attack, they started the season 4-0.
Since then, Arizona State has lost two of its last three contests. In those three games, the team has run the ball 95 times, totaling just 204 yards and two touchdowns.
The argument can be made that two of the three games were played on the road, where the Sun Devils’ regression away from home has been made clear, or the fact that the team has been without a healthy Manny Wilkins, one of the more prolific runners out of the backfield, since the second quarter of the USC game.
Regardless, the fact remains that the rushing attack that once looked so potent has become non-existent. In Monday’s press conference, Todd Graham attributed that to a couple of different factors.
“Obviously we haven’t blocked very well,” Graham said. “I think other teams have played very well, just been controlling the line of scrimmage and we’ve got to get better at what we’re doing. We’ve looked at a lot of different things that we’re going to work on and the key is to get better. The key is to win football games and the key to winning football games is being able to run the football.”
Heading into this Saturday’s home match-up with Washington State, the task of running the ball with more efficiency won’t get any easier.
Through six games, the Cougars lead the Pac-12 in rushing defense, holding opposing runners to just 3.7 yards per carry on 627 yards and seven touchdowns.
“They’re attacking, they move, they try and create havoc,” Graham said. “You can tell that their kids play hard, but mostly they’re an attacking group that are trying to force you into quite a few errors and things like that, so they’ve done well, I think that’s the big difference in their team.”
On the other side, the plan of attack as far as combatting that rushing defense is the most important thing for Graham leading up to Saturday.
That solution, however, could be a rather simple one.
“We’ve just got to give our running backs a chance,” Graham said. “We’ve got to do a good job of not letting them overwhelm us in the box and things like that, but we didn’t execute very well and I think we’ve got backs that are going to run the ball hard, you know, three backs that I think have shown great heart and determination. We’ve just got to do a better job blocking and executing, we’re making too many mental errors in fundamental technique.”