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Sun Devils OC Zak Hill: ‘We had to run it to win, control the clock’

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - NOVEMBER 07: Greg Johnson #9 of the USC Trojans tackles Jayden Daniels #5 of the Arizona State Sun Devils during the second half of a game at Los Angeles Coliseum on November 07, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

The Arizona State Sun Devils are coming off of a heartbreaking 28-27 loss to the USC Trojans in the Pac-12’s opening weekend of college football.

It was a game that saw ASU out rush its opponent with 258 yards on 38 carries (6.8 per attempt) compared to 175 yards on 40 rushes (4.4 per carry) for the Trojans.

“I thought overall the guys didn’t commit that many penalties, there weren’t a bunch of negative things as far as the offense goes,” Arizona State offensive coordinator Zak Hill said via Zoom on Tuesday.

“A couple sacks and some losses of yardage on a few plays — the reverse that we messed up with the formation — but overall I thought the guys did a good job processing what we were trying to do and going out there and executing.”

However, it was in the passing game that USC prevailed in, outgaining the Sun Devils 381 to 134 on an astounding 55 attempts from former Scottsdale Desert Mountain quarterback Kedon Slovis compared to Jayden Daniels’ 23.

A large part of the play-calling came due to the fact that ASU lost it’s No. 1 wide receiver in Frank Darby to an injury early in the contest.

“Losing Frank was a big part of our offense — experience out there, No. 1 guy,” Daniels said via Zoom on Tuesday. “Him going down, but that still gives no excuse of how we performed as an offense.

“I felt like we run blocked very well. There’s some things in the pass game that I missed, receivers missed, some O-line missed. But it’s things we have to clean up. We can’t depend on just one player to be there to change our whole scheme and outlook of everything.”

Another reason why ASU was so run-heavy was because Hill and Co. were trying to control the clock while also keeping the Trojan’s offense on the sideline.

“They were playing a lot of man (coverage), so we were trying to work our man concepts and probably could have came to a few different things there,” Hill said.

“We felt like we were running the ball well and were in a position in the game that we needed to run the ball and run the clock. So we wanted to be pounding the football a little bit and even though they knew we were running the ball, at times we were still getting big chunks, so I wanted to stay with that.”

And should the Sun Devils have recovered the onside kick, Daniels and Co. would have had one more opportunity to run the ball and the clock out.

“You always look back at every game and want to score more points, be more explosive, want to have a better pass game and get that going,” Hill added.

“We felt like in that one, especially in the second half, we had to run it to win and to control the clock and keep their offense off the field. It just didn’t end up working out the last quarter.”

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