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ASU coach Herm Edwards believes his team is close to breaking out

Arizona State quarterback Manny Wilkins throws a pass against the Stanford defense during the first half of an NCAA college football game Thursday, Oct. 18, 2018, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Darryl Webb)

The ASU Sun Devils’ 3-4 record doesn’t tell the whole story — each of their four losses this season were by seven points.

Most recently, the Sun Devils let No. 24 Stanford sneak out of Tempe with a 20-13 victory after senior quarterback Manny Wilkins failed to reach the end zone on the final drive. The Bay Area-native connected on 26-of-43 passes for 353 yards and one interception on Thursday evening.

Closing games has been a real hurdle for Wilkins and the Arizona State offense. The team fell flat after coming out of the gates with a 42-point drubbing of UTSA and a 16-13 upset over Michigan State.

After consecutive losses by seven points, the pressure is on for Wilkins to close out games.

“We’re in close games, we’ve just got to find a way to win them,” Head Coach Herm Edwards told Doug & Wolf on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.

For ASU to come out on the winning side of these close-knit battles, the Sun Devils need to step up on both sides of the ball. Arizona State’s 27.8 points per game ranks No. 8 in the Pac-12 and No. 78 in FBS. To truly compete down the stretch of the season, Edwards and Wilkins will need to do some serious game planning.

Between the sustained excellence of junior wideout N’Keal Harry and the breakout campaign of sophomore running back Eno Benjamin, Wilkins should have the weapons he needs to improve ASU’s scoring output.

Still, no great team can prevail without a winning product on both sides of the game. For Arizona State to get over the hump and win some games, the defense will need to remain active and engaged.

A game isn’t lost on one side of the ball, each game is a collective effort. While his team’s offense has been a bigger concern up to this point, Edwards holds everyone accountable for the outcome of their games — win or lose.

“It’s like anything else. If you stop them from scoring 20, maybe it doesn’t boil down to that. But it did,” Edwards said.

Edwards has put together a formidable defense in his first year as head coach. Arizona State gives up just 21 points per game which ranks No. 4 in the Pac-12 and No. 32 in the country.

Led by freshman linebacker Merlin Robertson, who has 46 tackles and four sacks in seven games, the Sun Devils are tied for the third most sacks in the conference with 19.

Regardless of what happens on the field, Edwards is keeping a close watch on the progression of his players, on and off the field. To properly build the culture he envisions for Arizona State football, he must first assure that his program produces bright individuals in addition to elite football prospects.

“Young guys have to learn to be professionals and then once that takes place, they have got to learn how to win and I think this team is right on the verge of cracking that rock,” Edwards said.

The Sun Devils have another chance to make noise in the conference on Saturday afternoon when they travel to Los Angeles for a meeting with the Trojans.

Doug & Wolf

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