(Photo: Scotty Bara/WCSN)
With players banged up on both sides of the ball, the Sun Devils prepare for their toughest task of this young season — traveling to take on No. 4 Utah. Although it seems like that is said of every opponent ASU plays, that has been the story of the Pac-12 South in 2015.
Sophomore running back Demario Richard was in a green, no-contact jersey, but appeared to be moving just fine on the knee that was injured in the win over Colorado. He participated in the team’s stretching and warm up sessions but sat out during the hurry-up session.
“Demario is coming along,” offensive coordinator Mike Norvell said. “He got a little banged up in the game, he was out there today getting some work in so we’ll see where he is at as the week continues to progress.”
The other notable injury from the Colorado game was suffered by junior linebacker Laiu Moeakiola, who also hurt his knee and was held out for the second half of the Colorado game.
Head coach Todd Graham said both are expected to play on Saturday against Utah.
Redshirt junior receiver Frederick Gammage, who has yet to play this season, is also expected to play Saturday in his first game of the season.
“Fred is coming along,” Norvell said. “I think Fred is going to be available this week. We tried to get him rolling last week, wasn’t quite there yet, but I think we can expect to see him out there, which will really help.”
Preparing for Utah’s Superstars
Utah has surprised everyone this year finding themselves on top of the Pac-12 five weeks into the season without a loss. It was no fluke either, as they hung 62 points on Oregon, and forced Cal quarterback Jared Goff to throw five interceptions, and four in the first half of their matchup last week.
While Utah has proven to be an all-around contender, it all comes down to their two guys behind the offensive line.
“It starts with those two guys, you have to stop the run with 7 (quarterback Travis Wilson) and 23 (running back Devontae Booker),” defensive coordinator Keith Patterson said. “Then once you do that then obviously you have to stay sound vertically.”
The senior duo has combined for nine of the Utes 11 rushing touchdowns this season, and has been the vital assets to the Utah offense.
“I think he’s not putting the ball in jeopardy, they’re being very smart,” Patterson said of Wilson. “He’s making plays with his feet and he’s not putting the ball downfield in jeopardy and he’s taking what the defenses are giving to him.”
Booker on the other hand has been given the biggest workload of anyone on the Utah offense, getting the ball 28 times per game on the ground. Where Booker has become a more dynamic threat on offense this season has been in the passing game.
“The biggest difference in Booker this year compared to last year is they’re throwing the ball to him quickly out of the backfield so when he catches the ball out in space, now you’ve got issues,” Patterson said.
No matter Wilson or Booker, the run game for Utah has to be stopped. The way they control the game behind their big offensive along with the fact that they take care of the ball so well has caused every team they have played issues, and it all starts with the run game.
“You have to stop the run,” Patterson said. “You have to force them to become one dimensional.”