(Photo: Scotty Bara/WCSN)
ASU has its work cut out for them in the final nonconference game before Pac-12 play starts. New Mexico comes to Tempe with a similar offensive look that Cal Poly showed, and it’s no secret that the Sun Devils had trouble stopping Cal Poly’s triple-option attack.
While Cal Poly relied on their two fullbacks for much of the game in week two, New Mexico is likely to rely on a cast of ball carriers. In only two games, New Mexico already has 12 players with at least one carry this season, and eight players with at least six carries.
With back-to-back weeks of triple option preparation, the Sun Devil run defense gets a shot to redeem itself. In order to have the best chance of stopping this blue-collar offensive strategy, head coach Todd Graham’s Sun Devils will have to contain a few of the Lobos’ many contributors.
Jhurell Pressley, senior running back, No. 6
Pressley was a 1000-yard rusher a season ago, and while he hasn’t shown quite the same featured-back ability that he showed a year ago, he has it in him. In the opening two games of this season, Pressley has only 89 yards on 21 carries. Those 21 carries lead the team but he is currently third on his team in yardage.
In the 2014 season, Pressley managed to eclipse the 1000-yard mark on only 114 carries. His 9.5 yards per carry were the most in the nation a season ago, with almost a one-yard difference in between him and the runner-up. Pressley also ran for 12 touchdowns.
New Mexico’s strategy so far by the numbers has been to get the ball to guys with fresh legs. Considering the numbers Pressley put up as the featured back for the Lobos a year ago, it is very likely they will go to him a lot facing the talent ASU has on the defensive end. His experience along with his success leads one to believe that he will be getting a lot of touches Friday night.
Kimmie Carson, sophomore linebacker, No. 2
Carson is currently the team’s leader in tackles through the first two games with 15, and 14 of those were unassisted. He is one of five players on the defense to record a sack this season, and while the Lobos have only forced one turnover, don’t be surprised if Carson finds a way to get the ball out of the Sun Devils’ possession.
While Carson can’t keep ASU from breaking the game open on his own, the numbers suggest that he is the guy on the Lobos’ defense capable of making plays on his own. Graham mentioned at practice this week the importance of making explosive plays in order to take over a game, and he thinks with the talent ASU has on offense that they are capable of making more of these plays. Explosive plays come with finding open space, and if the Sun Devils are going to find that open space, they are going to need to break past the second line of defense. That line being Carson and the linebackers.