Though Arizona State got a big win against USC last Saturday, the Sun Devils had trouble bringing down Trojans running backs Tre Madden and Justin Davis, who combined for 250 yards and four touchdowns.
The Sun Devils’ run defense is an alarming issue, but coach Todd Graham is attributing it to the caliber of the teams they’ve played in the last three weeks.
“Well our tackling in last week’s game wasn’t very good, but I think that had a lot to do with how good the running back was,” Graham said. “I think it had a lot to do with the physicality. That’s one of the things that I think our guys have to understand — that right now, what we’re dealing with every week is such a physical battle.
“I mean I’m talking about extremely physical and I think our tackling got a little tired.”
Both Wisconsin and Stanford, the two opponents preceding the game against USC, are known for their power blocking and physical style of play, and they both had success running the ball against the Arizona State defense.
Sun Devils defensive tackle Will Sutton said Notre Dame’s offensive line ranks right with those two schools.
“I think (Notre Dame’s is) better than Wisconsin, but not as good as Stanford’s,” Sutton said. “We got to come and fight.”
Sutton agreed with Graham that the missed tackles were an issue against USC as well as Stanford. He said that many of the long runs the defense gave up should have been prevented by wrapping up the runners when they first made contact.
The Sun Devils expect to get a break from the hyper-physical style of play after Notre Dame when they host Colorado on Oct. 12, but they’ll have to get through the Fighting Irish at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, first.