ASU solidifying trust, physical mentality as season progresses
TEMPE, Ariz. — As much as football games are dictated by yards and touchdowns, trust is a vital piece to the puzzle for Arizona State.
And as the season presses on, head coach Herm Edwards and the rest of the Sun Devils are building on that.
“It’s been an experience for me, it’s been quite a delightful one to be quite honest,” Edwards said on Wednesday. “I’m glad I’m back. I think I earned this football team’s trust and that was the thing for me to earn their trust and I think they trust their head coach.”
Quarterback Manny Wilkins nodded in agreement while he waited to be interviewed as his head coach spoke on the trust that has been earned, hitting home the notion that this team has become a tight-knit group in a short amount of time.
“You see that we play hard for our coach and it’s hard to — guys that have been here, the Jalen Harveys, myself, guys that have been here four years — be vulnerable as a person to say ‘hey, I’m putting my trust in you, I’ve got six months with you,” Wilkins said. “‘Here’s all my eggs in a basket.’
“It’s hard, but it was pretty easy with [Edwards]. He’s just so smooth and his persona. Everything about him is so positive. … The biggest thing for me as a human being, as a person, is you can look in somebody’s eyes and see that they care and he cares.”
And with trust comes belief and effort.
That couldn’t have been more true against the USC Trojans last Saturday, when ASU was able to take home the 38-35 win.
It was fourth-year USC head coach Clay Helton’s first home loss in his tenure.
“I’ve always said this in football, it’s not who you play, it’s how you play the day you play,” Edwards said.
The Sun Devils will need to use that performance as a building block with a tough Utah team on the docket.
“They are the hottest team in our league right now,” defensive coordinator Danny Gonzales said. “They’re averaging 41 points a game over their last four games.”
In addition to the point total, the Utes are averaging 481 yards a game and are rushing for 244 and throwing for 237 in a four-game span, Gonzales added.
“They’re big, they’re physical … They present a lot of problems, but we’ll try to put the best thing together to go try and have some fun,” Gonzales said.
Utah running back Zack Moss has run for close to 1,000 yards, scoring 10 times this season, while quarterback Tyler Huntley has shown his dual-threat abilities. The quarterback has completed 65.3 percent of his passes for 1,700 yards and 11 touchdowns to just four interceptions. He’s also ran for 262 yards and four scores.
For Gonzales and the ASU defense, the physicality and effort shown have been the focal points in the team’s mindset.
“They believe in what we’re doing as a defense and as a program,” Gonzales said. “There’s a believe system going on that we’re going to be successful and so week to week, on Saturday … those guys came to the sideline with that look of we were the dominant, more physical team. That’s fun when you can play like that.”
But even as the team feels the success, it isn’t time to take a backseat.
“We can’t relax, we have to continue to develop that killer instinct,” Gonzales said. “You don’t have to be the most talented guy in this game to be good.
“The great equalizer in football is just beating somebody up and if you’re more talented then you, but you’re tougher than they are, you are going to win a lot of those battles.”
— Jalen Harvey (stinger) practiced Wednesday, according to Gonzales. The DC added the team should know more on Thursday on his status for Saturday.
— Wilkins when asked if he saw Rams’ running back Todd Gurley ice the game on Sunday:
“No matter my answer, I’m going to get ridiculed for it, but in that situation, really smart play by Todd Gurley. I wish he didn’t do it so I wouldn’t have gotten so much backlash.
“I understand the situation, I knew the situation [on Saturday]. Such a special moment, something I’ll never forget, something my teammates will never forget and I know if I’m ever in that situation again I’ll slide, but nobody is ever going to be able to take that away from me.”
— Edwards on what he’s learned as ASU’s head coach:
“The emotions of teams because when you think about these young people, they’re student athletes. They’re not professionals and so every week in college football, there’s always one of those ‘how did this just happen?’ And I think the emotional stability of your team week in and week out is critical and how they are going to act. The emotions of a football game are very different.
“I didn’t come and take this job thinking I knew everything and one thing I always try to do and I think you never stop learning. When you stop learning then your going down a wrong road.”
— Danny Gonzales on Cam Phillips after giving up the late touchdown at USC:
“The poor young man sent me a text that night, which I absolutely loved because it bothered him. It was just tearing him up that that had happened.
“I promise you he gets in that situation again it’s going to be different and that’ going to benefit us in the future.”