ASU’s third-down defense worst in the country, Graham gives keys to upset

Sep 22, 2017, 2:31 PM
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)...
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
LISTEN: Todd Graham, ASU Head Football Coach

When it rains it pours; The Oregon Ducks’ offense is the storm that Arizona State has to brace itself for this weekend.

The most explosive offense in the Pac-12 is coming to Tempe which could spell an immense problem for the Sun Devils considering their defense has exhibited glaring holes through the first few weeks of the season.

The problem that has stood out the most is ASU’s third-down defense that is statistically the worst in the country in getting off the field.

The Sun Devils have allowed 24 third-down conversions out of 44 attempts allowing opposing teams a 54.5 perecent success rate. A spike from even last year’s defense allowing a 36.3 percent conversion rate.

“That’s been the nemesis for us,” Graham told Doug and Wolf on 98.7 FM, Arizona’s Sports Station. “We’ve gotten to third-and-11 plus 17 times and we been 50 percent getting off the field. We got to get off the field on third down. We’re not giving up a lot of big plays, done a better job with that. The biggest things for us is red zone defense and getting off the field on third down and obviously still not give up cheap ones.”

Oregon could provide the biggest test to the Sun Devils’ struggling defense considering the team is third in the country in total offense, arguably has the best running back in the conference with Royce Freeman and as a team they already have a 51.6 third-down conversion percentage.

Graham offered optimism and insight on what his team needs to do to get their first conference win.

“The key for us when we get to the end of the game is we got to be plus three in the turnover ratio,” Graham said. “We got to get our special teams which has been a strength in the past. The best thing we can do to their offense is keep it on the sidelines.”

Opposing teams have been able to pick apart ASU, scoring on 85.7 percent of their red zone trips, a slight improvement from last season when teams posted a 93.3 percent scoring rate.

The Sun Devils have allowed nine touchdowns in the end zone and only two of them have been on the ground. A positive mark for the team but considering that Freeman has the most rushing touchdowns in the country with nine and his teammate Kani Benoit has six, the red zone rushing defense will face its greatest test this season.

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ASU’s third-down defense worst in the country, Graham gives keys to upset