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Herm Edwards, Arizona State focused on limiting USC’s wideouts

Wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown #8 of the USC Trojans celebrates with Velus Jones Jr. #1, Tyler Vaughns #21 and Michael Pittman Jr. #6 after a touch down in the first half of the game against the Stanford Cardinal at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on September 7, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)

TEMPE, Ariz. — On Saturday, two teams enter Sun Devil Stadium looking to get back into the win column.

The Arizona State Sun Devils head into the matchup losing their last two games and coming off a bye week. The USC Trojans find themselves days removed from a brutal 56-24 loss to the Oregon Ducks.

Both teams are coming in hungry for a W, that’s a given. For ASU head coach Herm Edwards, preparation is especially key this week with USC boasting a tough offense, highlighted by a dynamic receiving corps.

“A lot of work needs to be done, USC week,” Edwards said on Monday. “[USC] had a tough game against Oregon … but a lot of talent, probably the most talented receivers we’ve faced as a corps thus far in the season. Big, physical, can run, catch a lot of the 50-50 balls. … They’re a very, very potent offense.

“We’ll have our hands full, that’s for sure, and we gotta prepare to understand that they’re going in here off a tough loss, and we had a pretty bad one too so this is a game that we better be mentally and emotionally ready to play.”

The Trojans have not one but three wide receivers that have moved the needle when called upon, with senior Michael Pittman Jr. (6-foot-4), junior Tyler Vaughns (6-foot-2) and sophomore Amon-Ra St. Brown (6-foot-1) leading the way for USC. Pittman and Vaughns are the clear-cut first options in the passing game, recording 58 receptions to go along with over 700 yards receiving each. Pittman holds the advantage in the touchdown department, scoring eight to Vaughns’ five. St. Brown has carved a nice role out for himself as well, catching 47 balls for 493 yards and four touchdowns.

There’s no denying the Trojans are going to air out the football, even in high-risk situations, something the Sun Devils were on the other side of not too long ago.

“It’s like anything else, it’s the ball that goes down the field,” Edwards said when asked how the team’s defensive backs were going to matchup with USC’s wideouts. “It’s the high ball, it’s the jump ball. How many can we contest? Because they’re going to throw it in tight coverage and figure their guys going to come down with the ball. No different than last year when we had N’Keal [Harry]. N’Keal was covered but he wasn’t covered.”

One way to limit the wideouts’ production is stopping freshman quarterback and Scottsdale native Kedon Slovis. While the QB has completed 68.5% of his passes (165-of-241) for 1,889 yards and 16 touchdowns, Slovis has tossed eight interceptions and has been sacked 14 times in eight games played.

But no matter how well Edwards prepares his team for battle, he knows it’s going to be a war come Saturday.

“Anytime you play an opponent like USC, you understand how difficult it is,” Edwards said. “With the talent they have, you have to be firing on all cylinders, all three phases. No different than last year’s game, came down to a three-point game, very competitive football game.”

EXTRA POINTS

— Edwards when asked what the 2019-20 Sun Devils remind him of from his previous tenures:

“It’s kinda Kansas City, we started a bunch of young guys, rookies and first-year players. I used to always say, if we were playing college football we had the best college football team in America. The problem is we’re playing pro football and you don’t win a lot of games doing that.

“But the difference is here we have a quarterback. We didn’t have a quarterback, we didn’t have a starting quarterback in the lineup. … We couldn’t score any points and it became very difficult. The field became very long. It wasn’t a 100-yard field, it was long, and that’s hard.”

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