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Danny Gonzales, ASU defense preparing smart for Fresno State

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

TEMPE, Ariz. — The time for celebrating a bowl berth is over.

The next step for defensive coordinator Danny Gonzales and the ASU defense is getting ready for a battle with the Fresno State Bulldogs.

But with the game a little more than a week away, Gonzales has to find a happy medium between being rested and physically ready to play in the Las Vegas Bowl.

“In my career I’ve been to nine bowl games, including as a player and there’s a bunch of different approaches,” Gonzales said Wednesday. “The most important thing is you have to have a fresh football team when they get to that [bowl game].

“So you have to be able to push them hard early, install schematically what you’re going to call late, practice physically at some point during the preparation because we’re very young and don’t quite know how to practice in just helmets yet and there’s a fine line between being fresh and being physically ready to play.”

Fatigue-wise, the defensive coordinator has seen a change in his defense in the last three games. Although ASU ended up going 2-1, the defense was noticeably different, giving up a combined 99 points. With the added time to prepare and recharge, Gonzales feels the team will be ready come Dec. 15.

And ready they will need to be as they take on a Fresno State team that has put together a solid season behind the duo of quarterback Marcus McMaryion and wide receiver KeeSean Johnson.

“I think it’s a combination of Washington and Colorado of what they do on offense,” Gonzales said. “They are a very physical football team. I think in all my times at the previous school, it was the only school that was able to match our physical stature and we had great battles with them so it’s going to be a very, very good challenge.

“They are a great football team. They’re ranked 21st in the country for a reason.”

McMaryion is 12th among NCAA quarterbacks in yards (3,453) and seventh in completion percentage (69.8). His favorite target, Johnson, is fourth in the NCAA in receptions (93) and eighth in yards (1,307).

The Bulldogs have also found success on the ground using a combination of Ronnie Rivers and Jordan Mims, who have combined for 967 yards and 14 scores.

ASU and Fresno State each faced two of the same opponents this year, San Diego State — who is in the same conference as the Bulldogs — and UCLA. ASU went 1-1, losing to SDSU, while Fresno State went 2-0.

“They are very different from San Diego State. What they do like San Diego State is that they’re very physical, they match that aspect of the game,” Gonzales said when asked if there were similarities in the two schools.

“In my opinion, if your a physical football team, you got a chance to win every game. And so it is a great challenge — very similar to the San Diego State [game] — schematically it’s different but I’m looking forward to it.”

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