After a thrilling overtime win against Missouri Friday the Arizona State Sun Devils must now prepare for their first road game.
The win put the Sun Devils in the top 25, but the team has no time to linger on the victory since it must travel to Champaign, IL to play the Illinois Fighting Illini.
“We’re going to have to play our rear ends off just to win the game,” head coach Dennis Erickson said. “If we play to avoid a letdown we’re not going to win. When you come off a win it’s a lot easier to play then when you come off a loss.”
To avoid any hangover from the emotional win, Erickson is looking to his senior-heavy roster to lead the team.
“You travel a lot better when you have some veteran leadership like we do,” Erickson said, “as far as focus and attention when you get on the road and they understand why we’re going and that we are going to play a football game, when you have young guys they have a little trouble figuring that out.”
Like the Sun Devils, Illinois is also 2-0 but has faced less competitive teams with the wins coming over Arkansas State and South Dakota State.
Senior linebacker Shelly Lyons believes the key to winning is stopping Illinois’ running attack.
“Bottom line we have to stop the run,” Lyons said. “If we allow them to run the ball they’ve been one of the best teams in their conference rushing wise past four, five years so our main point on emphasis is to stop the run.”
Erickson’s main concern is containing the Illini’s QB, Nathan Scheelhaase.
“They have an extremely good QB,” Erickson said. “He came in third or fourth game last year and led them to a lot of victories, very talented has a lot of leadership moves around a lot and makes a lot of things happen.”
On the offensive side Arizona State quarterback Brock Osweiler is “impressed” with the Illini’s speed on defense.
“They’re fast, especially their defensive line,” Osweiler said. “I was watching them this morning and their defensive line is fast and athletic, so we really need to put a lot of focus into stopping them upfront this week.”
Something in Arizona State’s favor is the recent struggles Illinois has dealt with when playing ranked opponents, losing 10 straight to teams in the AP Top 25. The Sun Devils ended a similar streak when they beat Missouri.
This is the third meeting between the Sun Devils and the Illini, with ASU winning the previous two. The game is Saturday at 4 p.m. on News-Talk 92.3 KTAR.
Arizona Sports’ Craig Grialou contributed to this report