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ASU secondary hoping to regain lost confidence against Oregon

Wide receiver Drake London #15 of the USC Trojans makes a reception over safety Aashari Crosswell #16 of the Arizona State Sun Devils during the second half of the NCAAF game at Sun Devil Stadium on November 09, 2019 in Tempe, Arizona. The Trojans defeated the Sun Devils 31-26. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

TEMPE, Ariz. — Entering the 2019-20 season, Arizona State Sun Devils defensive coordinator and assistant head coach Danny Gonzales set the bar high for his young and upcoming secondary led by sophomore safety Aashari Crosswell.

With double-digit pick totals and a stout defense to shut down most anything beyond the line of scrimmage on the brain, the secondary was going to be one the team’s most valuable pieces.

But 10 games into the year, it’s a different story for the unit, which has just four interceptions and has been susceptible to chunk plays from opposing offenses.

So what’s missing? Is it the personnel grouping or the overall talent?

For Gonzales, the answer’s simple.

“Early on in the season they were playing very confident, their technique was better,” Gonzales said of the unit’s waning confidence after practice Wednesday. “I think we got spooked at times and when your technique fails, now it’s a crapshoot. Now you’re guessing and apparently we’re really bad guessers.”

In the team’s last four last losses, opposing quarterbacks have taken advantage of the secondary, recording 10 touchdowns and 1,067 yards with just two interceptions. The two most recent losses against USC and Oregon State saw 56 of the combined 66 points scored through the air, with the two signal-callers tossing four touchdowns apiece.

While a lack of pressure on opposing QB aids to the team’s struggles, Crosswell hasn’t had the season many thought he would be in right now.

After an impressive four-interception freshman campaign, the sophomore has just one of the team’s four picks on the season go along with 42 total tackles.

“The regression with Aashari I think this year is a confidence issue and maybe thinking he arrived a little more than he has,” Gonzales said. “He understands he’s not playing well, last week he had some discipline stuff, he was late Monday but he’s been really good in practice this week.

“Does that mean he’s gonna play better? It gives him a chance and if he focuses and plays … and we can put that whole thing together then we got a chance.”

The next opportunity for a real confidence boost lies Saturday when the team takes on the sixth-ranked Oregon Ducks at Sun Devils Stadium.

The Ducks represent a team needing every last win to have a shot at getting into the College Football Playoffs, leaving the Sun Devils left to play the role of spoiler while hoping to locate what’s been missing from their defense.

“It should be an electric environment in there, and if we don’t let them get ahead of us earlier, it’ll be a heck of a football game,” Gonzales said. “I’m excited as can be. That’s the great thing about football, these guys work their tails off for 12 guaranteed [games]. They’re still working for the 13th one.

“Unlike any other sport, you practice more than you play. Well, they practiced really hard the last two days. The energy has been better especially coming off losing four in a row. That doesn’t mean you’re going to win but it gives you a chance. A far better chance than how we prepared before.”

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