It’s very difficult for a college football team, not used to being on the national stage, to live up to lofty expectations.
The 2015 Arizona State Sun Devils haven’t lived up to theirs through two games this season.
Of course, the Devils opened with a 38-17 loss to Texas A&M in Houston before notching their first victory of the year at home against Cal Poly in a hard-fought 35-21 affair.
Todd Graham’s team has one more game to prepare for a rugged Pac-12 schedule. The Sun Devils (1-1) host the New Mexico Lobos Friday night in Tempe, hoping to put together one complete effort before facing USC and UCLA to open conference play.
“This is probably their ‘get right’ game,” New Mexico head coach Bob Davie told Doug and Wolf Wednesday on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM. “They’re probably looking at us, the week before the conference starts, thinking ‘it’s time for us to get right.’
“They’ve played one team that they’re like and they lost. They played one team that they should have beat and they beat. Kind of like us — we beat Mississippi Valley State 66-0 — we were better than them, we should have won that game. And then we played Tulsa, a team that we’re pretty much like, and we lost (40-21). It’s kind of the same thing with us.”
Davie also said he’s not reading too much into ASU’s loss to Texas A&M, since it pretty much amounted to a season-opening home game for the Aggies.
“When you get about 70,000 Aggie fans in a venue like there at NRG Stadium, and the momentum goes against you, things kind of unravel,” Davie said. “So they played A&M with those two great defensive ends they have, a lot of crowd noise. A&M was jumping the snap count and just discombobulated Arizona State’s offense.”
In their second contest, ASU struggled with Cal Poly’s old-school option attack. The Mustangs rolled up 284 rushing yards on 72 carries, while only attempting eight passes in the game. That didn’t surprise Davie, either.
“They come home and play a Cal Poly team, who is a pain in the butt,” he said. “They’re running true triple-option, double-slot football.”
Like Cal Poly, New Mexico runs a triple-option offense — although it’s different in its presentation than what the Mustangs do. Davie pointed out that the Lobos are more of a zone-blocking team and not a true triple-option blocking team like Cal Poly — who drew Graham’s ire with repeated use of cut blocks on defensive linemen last week. Graham believes that cut blocking should be eliminated.
“We’re spending so much conversation, as we should be, on player safety,” Davie said. “That’s a tough deal now, when you’ve got two guys down in there low blocking you at those angles. I agree 100 percent with what he’s saying.”
The Lobos will run the ball. They ran wild on Mississippi Valley State, piling up 339 yards and eight rushing touchdowns in their opener. They’re currently 14th in the nation in rushing, accumulating 281 yards per contest.
Even so, Davie is tempering expectations for his own team in Friday night’s game.
“I think you can do a lot of talking, and a lot of spinning and have an agenda, but the bottom line is if we want to recruit Phoenix and Arizona is to come in there and play our butts off and put a good product on the field,” he said. “I appreciate the time to do the commercial, but it’s all going to come down to how we play.”
This is the second straight year the two teams have met. The Sun Devils won in Albuquerque last season, 58-23.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. Friday night and the game can be heard on ESPN Phoenix 620 AM, beginning with pregame coverage at 5:00.