(Photo: Scotty Bara/WCSN)
After an embarrassing loss to USC, tangible changes have taken place in ASU’s week of practice leading up to its next game against UCLA.
One new course of action observed in the early sessions of ASU practice on Wednesday was a unique tackling drill, in which the defensive line finished off pushing the slides by wrapping them up and bringing them down.
With the poor tackling the defense displayed against USC’s explosive skill players in mind, the task won’t get much easier against UCLA on Saturday
Defensive coordinator Keith Patterson reiterated the tackling needs to get better for Saturday.
“We’ve got to get to where we’re attacking edges, and when we get those one on one situations all across the board, somebody has got to win,” Patterson said.
In today’s hurry-up drill the defense set up in a nickel package, and the offense for the most part had its ordinary personnel on the field for the drill–a set that included sophomore running Kalen Ballage instead of his sophomore partner in crime Demario Richard.
Sophomore safety Armand Perry, as well as redshirt senior cornerback Lloyd Carrington, didn’t participate due to their injuries. Perry remains in a walking boot for his sprained ankle.
Perry’s replacement was once again freshman Kareem Orr, but taking first team reps for Carrington was the recently-converted cornerback De’Chavon Hayes. Hayes, despite only being a cornerback for a day, made an interception in the end zone to end the drill.
Gonzalez looking to get back on track
Along with tackling and an obvious lack of rhythm on offense, another one of the underperforming aspects of Sun Devil football this year has come from the normally-reliable Zane Gonzalez.
Gonzalez was on the preseason Lou Groza award watch list, which is awarded to college football’s best kicker. With the way he has kicked in his career at ASU, this was an appropriate nomination. He was a first-team all-conference kicker his freshman year, and second-team his sophomore year.
But this year, Gonzalez has only made three of his six attempts–one of those misses coming from less than 30 yards. His numbers say he is more than capable of being a reliable option, but Gonzalez says right now it has nothing to do with his ability.
“I think it’s a confidence issue,” Gonzalez said. “After the first miss against Cal Poly it set me back a little bit, started overthinking it. But this week I’ve had a really good week of practice so I’m excited for the game.”
Two of his misses have come from 48 and 52 yards–not “gimmes” by any means. Despite the two long misses, he anticipates to continue to be counted upon should those situations arise again.
“There’s a struggle after a miss, obviously,” Gonzalez said. “You don’t like missing, but going into next game I’m going to come confident. I’m excited to get some more deep attempts like that.”
Gonzalez’s production has been a crucial part of the ASU’s offensive success the past two seasons, and having him struggle hurts the overall rhythm of the team. With the big matchup at UCLA this Saturday, Gonzalez hopes not only him, but the team in its entirety can turn it around with a big win.
“Not just for me but for the team as well,” Gonzalez said of the big matchup. “The team needs a big win and that would be a big confidence booster.”