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ASU defense ready for the challenge presented by Stanford’s power running game

TEMPE, Ariz. — It’s not new. It’s just not widely seen, especially in the Pac-12.

“It’s kind of unorthodox. It kind of caught us off guard when we saw it,” linebacker Chris Young said.

“Yeah, I’ve never played against an offense like that,” linebacker Carl Bradford added. “It’s pretty scary at first, but you just got to attack it and trust yourself, trust your teammates.”

The Sun Devil defense, in the first meeting against Stanford, played on their heels, regularly getting pushed off the line of scrimmage by an offensive line that featured six, seven and sometimes even eight players with their hands in the dirt.

“It’s not a bad idea. It’s pretty smart,” defensive line coach Jackie Shipp said Thursday.

The formation, often referred to as “jumbo”, “heavy jumbo” or “monster” rocked ASU for 240 rushing yards, the third-most given up by the Sun Devils defense all season.

“They run a pretty tough scheme of the power,” Young said. “That was probably one of the biggest things that we had to adjust to when we played them the first time.”

Even without the extra linemen, Stanford plays a physical brand of football upfront.

The Cardinal feature an offensive line with one sophomore, two seniors and two fifth-year seniors that averages 6-foot-6 and 305 pounds. They provide running lanes for the conference’s fourth-best rushing attack (208.5 yards per game), plus they protect the quarterback better than any other team in the conference. Junior Kevin Hogan has been sacked only 11 times in 12 games.

As the experts like to say, the Pac-12 Championship Game at Sun Devil Stadium Saturday will be won in the trenches.

That first matchup between ASU and Stanford, won by the Cardinal 42-28, was 11 weeks ago.

“This is a different team since we played Stanford. Needless to say that we’ve grown in so many ways as athletes. We’ve matured. I think we understand the game better,” Young said.

And have performed better, too.

The Sun Devil defense has held four of their last seven opponents under 100 yards on the ground.

Facing physical power-running football teams like Stanford, Wisconsin and Notre Dame has prepared ASU for what awaits in two days, according to Bradford.

“We got a feel for it and now we know how to beat it,” he said.