(Photo: Scotty Bara/WCSN)
Without the need to prepare for a game this weekend, Arizona State instead focused on areas of the game in which the team felt needed to be retooled. Most critically, one of those areas included forcing more turnovers.
While ASU leads the country in tackles for loss (69), it ranks dead last in the Pac-12 in turnover margin, and through seven games, the Sun Devils have forced just nine turnovers.
Hypothetically, the surplus of tackles for loss would generate pressure in a way that causes the opposing team to cough up the ball, but that hasn’t been the case, and that is something ASU head coach Todd Graham finds puzzling.
“That’s (lack of turnovers) been bizarre,” Graham said. We’ve made a major emphasis this week as a coaching staff on focusing on the takeaway part of it.”
In 2014, ASU generated 27 takeaways, but without the services of former defensive end Marcus Hardison and field safety Damarious Randall, the Sun Devils haven’t displayed that same ballhawk mentality in 2015.
“If you look at stats, you can say, ‘Oh, we need to get better in this area.’ And that’s one of them,” redshirt senior safety Jordan Simone said. “We emphasize that in practice, and we just got to get better at it.”
Overall, the bye week has allowed the Sun Devils to manage injuries, both major and minor. Sophomore safety Armand Perry was once again in cleats today and Graham said earlier this week that he is “50-50 or better” to play Oregon on October 29.
Bye week provides an opportunity to step back
Although the Sun Devils will have walkthroughs over the next two days, they will have the opportunity to take a break from normal football operations for the first time in several months, and for sophomore running back Kalen Ballage, that opportunity is critical.
“We’re football, football, football all the time, and I think for anybody, even the coaches, it’s OK sometimes to just step back and relax and think about other things for a little while,” Ballage said. “It can actually help you.”
Redshirt senior wide receiver Devin Lucien echoed that sentiment:
“It’s going to be great,” he said. “Everyone puts so much on football, it’s good to get away a little bit and clear your head for a bit.”
At the same time, Simone said he couldn’t help but look forward to spending his weekend taking in the rest of the country playing games, even on the team’s days off.
“If you’re a football player and you love the game, you’re always around the football even in the offseason,” Simone said. “I’m going to be watching games, and working out and being with the team.”
The Sun Devils will return to a normal practice schedule on Sunday, when they prepare to take on Oregon on Thursday night. Coming off a disappointing loss against No. 3 Utah, that extra time off also provides perspective for the Sun Devils.
“Anytime you take an L, it’s going to hurt,” Simone said. “Having this bye week to wait around is not fun, but luckily we play on Thursday.”
ASU has two losses in the Pac-12 South, and it seems as if Utah has a stranglehold on the division. The team’s goals of a Pac-12 title seem even further away than it did heading into the matchup. Even so, Lucien continues to maintain the “brotherhood” mentality in the midst of the apparent struggles this season.
“We all pull for each other, and regardless of what outside people think, we’re going to stay together and be fine,” Lucien said. “You got a lot of critics when you lose games, but when you win, they all shut up. So we need to just start winning games, and come together and win so we can shut everybody up.”
You can reach Zac Pacleb on Twitter @ZacPacleb or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org