(Photo: Alli Cline/WCSN)
Following its disappointing loss to No. 3 Utah, Arizona State has nine more days to reassess the state of its season before taking on Oregon on October 29. Part of that assessment will be figuring out how to get the offense back on track after not directly getting into the end zone against the Utes.
All 18 points of ASU’s loss came as a result of special teams play, and for an offense that had come off its two highest point totals in the previous two games, the performance it had on Saturday came off as concerning at the least.
Some of that concern circulate around senior D.J. Foster, who tallied just four touches for six net yards. For being ASU’s leading receiver and third-leading rusher, the Sun Devils haven’t quite gotten as much out of their do-it-all talent the last few weeks. ASU head coach Todd Graham said Foster was “banged up” as far back as following the New Mexico game on September 18, so that may explain some of Foster’s regression.
“We’re going to do more things to try and get him (Foster) the ball,” Graham said. “But we’ve been trying to do that.”
When asked if Foster was meeting his own expectations in his final season, he was blunt:
“Not really,” Foster said. “I mean, I knew how it was going to be. It’s a long season.”
With that in mind, redshirt junior wide receiver Tim White has been hot, taking a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown, and redshirt senior wide receiver Devin Lucien snagged six catches for 118 yards against the Utes.
“We have so many weapons, and it’s hard when you have so many weapons on the field trying to put guys on the field,” Foster said. “We got a lot of great guys… We’re doing a great job of just adjusting. We’re finally starting to get into our rhythm and our tempo.”
Surely, a portion of the offensive struggles stemmed from missing sophomore running back and all-purpose yards leader Demario Richard. Richard was in a green, non-contact jersey last week, but it was determined right before kickoff that he would be held out of the game. As a result, the Sun Devils running game sputtered as sophomore kalen Ballage averaged 2.7 yards on 18 carries.
“We didn’t have much rhythm, so we’re working on that.” Graham said. “We have to score points.”
Down to basics during the bye week
Graham repeatedly said that the bye week – or “extra week” as he deemed it – started off with the team focusing on fundamentals. Whether it be schemes, tackling or screen-recognition, Graham said his team’s focus today was getting back to the basics.
Another emphasis was forcing more turnovers. Although the Sun Devils lead the nation in tackles for loss, they rank dead-last in the Pac-12 in turnovers forced (9).
“We’re getting an awful lot of TFLs and sacks and those things,” Graham said. “We just need to get the ball out, so we’re focusing on that.”
Ultimately, the Sun Devils have five games remaining on the schedule, and Utah seems to have a stranglehold on the division. Despite a Pac-12 championship bid being quite a long shot that requires help from other teams, the Sun Devils maintain their focus on the day-to-day operations.
“At the end of the day, we get five games to go out and win,” Foster said. “If it works out, it works out, but we got to go 5-0.”
Graham reiterated the notion that plenty of football remains for his team to play.
“We’re in control of writing the final chapter of the 2015 season,” Graham said. “The final chapter has not been written.”
– Sophomore safety Armand Perry was running in stretching lines today and was in cleats.
– Freshman fullback Nick Ralston was in green today.
You can reach Zac Pacleb on Twitter @ZacPacleb or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org