TEMPE, Ariz. – To say Arizona State has underperformed in its first two games is not an exaggeration.
Heck, even head coach Todd Graham has mentioned several times this week his team is not playing to its potential.
That’s what makes Friday’s game against New Mexico so important. It’s the Sun Devils’ final tune-up, if you will, before the start of Pac-12 play.
“It’s important that we get everything hitting on all cylinders. Obviously, we haven’t done that to this point, but our deal is just to be 1-0 every week,” Graham said Wednesday.
Every phase of the game is under the microscope.
Offensively, ASU (1-1) has looked out of sync; the defense hasn’t been able to stop the run, giving up 231 yards which ranks 115th nationally; and special teams is still adjusting to new coordinator Shawn Slocum, though in the win over Cal Poly that unit performed the best of the bunch.
Redshirt senior quarterback Mike Bercovici put the responsibility on himself to correct the offense.
“We know the type of work that we’ve been putting in,” Bercovici said. “We know the type of playmaking ability that we have on both sides of the ball and in the kicking game, so it’s just going to be exciting to finally see it click.”
The Sun Devils want to play fast but at the same time not rush, which is when mistakes occur.
“That the job of the quarterback,” Bercovici said. “It’s my job as a quarterback to make sure that we put ourselves in a good position, making sure everybody is set, no penalties and that’s how we’ll start rolling.”
Through two games, the offense has produced just five plays of 20 or more yards.
“With the speed that we have and the guys that we have, we need to have more explosive plays and that’ll happen,” Graham said.
Complicating matters is the team’s health. Too many players are out or limited in practice.
Once again, ASU is expected to be minus a key starter or two, and perhaps more this week.
Redshirt junior running back De’Chavon Hayes is questionable after appearing to injure his hamstring against Cal Poly, while sophomore running back Kalen Ballage is expected to miss a third straight game because of illness.
On defense, sophomore free safety Armand Perry is still in a boot and on crutches.
“I’m thinking about coming out of retirement, I really am. I’d really like to play some more,” Graham joked when asked how they might handle Perry’s absence. “We’re going to probably to decide between Chad (Adams) and Kareem Orr. James (Johnson) might play some as well.”
The Sun Devils have won 18 straight against New Mexico, including a 58-23 victory last season in Albuquerque, the first contest between the two since the 1977 season.
“I know our guys are eager to get out there and to put a complete game together,” Graham said. “We expected to be playing all together better than what we have to this point, but the key is just to get playing all on the same level and win, that’s all that matters.”
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