Herm Edwards: MSU is ‘comfortable in uncomfortable situations’
TEMPE, Ariz. — Arizona State’s 49-7 victory in week one went according to head coach Herm Edwards’ code.
“Throw to score and you run to win,” he said at a press conference Monday. “We were able to do both.”
Quarterback Manny Wilkins threw for 237 yards and four touchdowns while the team accumulated 266 yards rushing against University of Texas at San Antonio in the season opener.
But ASU’s week two opponent, Michigan State University, is a different sort of monster.
“We sputtered some offensively, and that’s going to happen this week, by the way, against Michigan State,” Edwards said. “It’s not like you’re going to just have your way with them, because you’re not. There are going to be a lot of bad plays. We’ve got to realize that and we can’t get flustered.”
While UTSA has won six games in consecutive seasons, the Conference USA team is not the same as the perennial Big Ten contender in MSU.
The Spartans have won at least 10 games in six of the last eight seasons and five bowl games in that span.
Mark Dantonio, who has been the MSU head coach for the last 12 years, thrives on the pressure. Edwards said the players are modeled in the coach’s personality.
“They find their self very comfortable in uncomfortable situations,” Edwards said.
Last week, MSU trailed Utah State 31-30 with just over five minutes remaining. The Spartans, led by Phoenix Pinnacle High School alumnus Brian Lewerke, scored, converted the two-point conversion and then picked off a Utah State pass to seal the win.
This will be Lewerke’s first start in Arizona since leading Pinnacle to a 10-2 record and playoff appearance in 2014.
While Edwards said it’s sometimes difficult for players to handle the attention and media pressures of returning home, he doesn’t think it will get to Lewerke.
“This team is a team that is used to the spotlight,” Edwards said. “That’s their normal, that’s normal to them. When you’re the quarterback and you’re in a winning program, that comes along with that.”
The Sun Devils aren’t accustomed to the same success and limelight. They’re now four years removed from their last 10-win season, and being a middle-of-the-road Pac-12 team, they don’t get the national attention of some other programs.
After a sound victory over UTSA, Edwards had some words for his players.
“Stay humble but be hungry,” he said.
He reiterated his message to the media room Monday.
“It’s a mindset, you can’t live off what you did in the past. Where you stay the same, somebody passes you up,” he said. “Success can be a disease if you allow it. It can overtake you. Before you know it, you’re thinking you’ve arrived and you really haven’t.”
It’s only been one game. The train is far from reaching the station.
But Edwards wanted to remind his players they haven’t achieved anything yet.
“We won a football game, and that’s fantastic, but now we’ve got to try to win another one against a really, really good football team,” he said.
“You got no shot” against MSU if you have 11 penalties
Edwards wasn’t taken aback by the penalties against ASU in its opener.
The lack of preseason games makes it difficult to get meaningful practice reps, which he said makes the first week of college football more difficult than NFL.
He added that MSU had nine penalties of their own in week one.
With that said, Edwards said ASU can’t replicate its inefficiencies against the Spartans.
“We made some boneheaded plays and you’ve got to alleviate it,” Edwards said. “You can’t have 11 penalties in a game and expect to win. You’re not going to have 11 penalties against these guys and win a football game, you got no shot.”
Edwards on the student section: “Who thinks of stuff like this?”
The Sun Devil student section has impressed Edwards in his short time at ASU.
“The atmosphere of college football, there’s nothing like it,” he said.
But he isn’t limiting the fans just to those at Sun Devil Stadium. He’s attended other sporting events in his brief time at ASU and has been amazed by the antics of the crowd and the 942 Crew.
“They come up with most clever things — it’s like, how do they do that? Who thinks of stuff like this?” he asked. “When I was young, I never thought of stuff like that.”
“The clock is wrong … Am I dreaming?”
It’s been a while since Edwards coached at the college level.
He wanted some affirmation Monday that the first quarter of Saturday felt long.
With kickoff at 7:40 p.m. and the end of the first at 8:25 p.m., the first quarter lasted 45 minutes Saturday.
That is a bit long for a 15-minute quarter. Edwards took notice, particularly of the TV timeouts.
“That had to be the longest first quarter that I’ve ever been involved in in football history,” he said. “I kept looking up there and I’m going the clock’s wrong … Finally I asked somebody, I said, ‘Did they not change the quarter?'”
Nope. It just took a while to get through.
“I almost started an argument,” Edwards said.
Saturday was a big win, but the season’s just getting started.
“There’s still a lot of things we have to do to improve, but it’s always good to coach players after you’ve won a game trying to improve things rather than the other side of it,” Edwards said.