As ASU seeks offensive identity, rushing attack is front-runner

Sep 24, 2018, 8:06 PM | Updated: 8:07 pm

(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)...

(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

TEMPE — Two weeks ago, Arizona State was the talk of college football. After a 2-0 start, including an upset win over Michigan State, it found itself in the Associated Press Top 25. Now, after two consecutive seven-point road losses, the Sun Devils are looking to form their identity on the field.

After a tough loss, with a controversial ending to San Diego State on Sept. 15, coach Herm Edwards knew he wanted to make some changes to the offense. It was something he didn’t want to do at first with a system already in place around senior quarterback Manny Wilkins.

“I didn’t want to stray away from that,” Edwards said. “You got a talented quarterback, you got one of the most talented receivers in the conference and you go, ‘I’m not going to try to change everything.’ ”

A lackluster second-half performance against San Diego State caused Edwards to reconsider his approach for last Saturday’s game against Washington.  

“I try to make good suggestions, I’ll say it like that, right,” he said, smiling. “ I just make suggestions that’s all.”

Those suggestions to offensive coordinator Rob Likens, at the beginning of last week, were to tinker with the run scheme as well as run the ball more frequently.

Against the Huskies, the Sun Devils rushed it a season-high 40 times and many of the attempts came from a power run scheme. On the road against a talented, highly ranked Washington team, the game plan was an attempt to get to the fourth quarter with a chance to win. Mission accomplished.

The Sun Devils were one spectacular sideline grab away from getting the ball back in the final three minutes down a touchdown. But, the catch was made and the Sun Devils ultimately fell 27-20, to drop to 2-2 on the season.

Moving forward to Oregon State, and the rest of the season, Edwards wants running the football to be the team’s identity.

“It’s a process and I think the more I learn this team, and the more I learn the players. I think we have to continue to develop things going forward. Going down the road. Running the ball is going to be part of it.”

Edwards hopes the running game will take it to another dimension moving forward. That starts Saturday when Arizona State will be huge home favorite against a 1-3 Oregon State team.

“Our team needs to get off to a fast start at home. It really does,” Edwards said. “We need to win the game. We’ve lost two now. We need to find a way to win a football game again.”

Part of Edwards’ focus is on improving in the middle portion of the game.

“We have to get better on offense and defense in the second and third quarters,” he said. “We’re not for some reason. There’s something there that I can’t figure out yet.”

In Arizona State’s last three contests it has been outscored 36-13 in the second and third quarters combined. Thirteen points in six quarters of football will not get things done.

The Sun Devils will look to put together a full game and get back above five-hundred Saturday night in Tempe, where they are undefeated so far this season.

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As ASU seeks offensive identity, rushing attack is front-runner