ARIZONA STATE FOOTBALL

No. 19 Arizona State looks for more explosive passing vs. No. 23 BYU

Sep 17, 2021, 9:08 AM | Updated: 9:12 am
Arizona State wide receiver Andre Johnson (82) pulls in a pass as Southern Utah cornerback Kobe Sin...

Arizona State wide receiver Andre Johnson (82) pulls in a pass as Southern Utah cornerback Kobe Singleton (3) defends during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York)

(AP Photo/Matt York)

No. 19 Arizona State’s first road game of the season is also its first critical test.

After making the grade in each of their first two games, the Sun Devils visit the No. 23 BYU Cougars for the first time since 1998 on Saturday night.

ASU’s defense allowed just 155 yards in the team’s 37-10 victory over UNLV last Saturday. That mark is the fewest yards allowed in a single game for the Sun Devils since 2009’s season opener against Idaho State.

In its last game, BYU defeated arch rival Utah for the first time in 12 years, 24-17. The Utes only converted 22% of their third downs against the Cougar defense.

Essential Info

What: No. 19 Arizona State (2-0) at No. 23 BYU (2-0)

When: Saturday, Sept. 18 at 7:15 p.m.

Betting Line via FanDuel: ASU -3.5

TV: ESPN

Radio: ESPN 620 AM or 98.7 FM HD-2

Who will stand out in ASU’s passing game?

ASU’s success on the ground is making its passing game take a back seat so far in 2021.

Rushing attempts vastly outnumber passing attempts by 87-47 in ASU’s first two games. The Sun Devils ran the ball 47 times against UNLV alone.

When quarterback Jayden Daniels has gone back to pass, big plays have been at a premium. The Sun Devils have thrown for less than 200 passing yards in each of its first two games.

ASU head coach Herm Edwards said he wants bigger plays coming from the air.

“We haven’t made a lot of explosive plays and I think when you think about passing you want to be able to do that,” Edwards said.

There hasn’t been a single wide receiver that has stood out from the group, either. Four receivers top the group with six receptions each.

Edwards said the main receiving option has not been determined and that it could play out in the weeks ahead.

“It’s too early to know right now but I think as the season continues to play out we will figure out who those guys are,” Edwards said.

BYU’s offensive improvement evident

The way BYU’s offense improved from its opening game against the Arizona Wildcats to its win over Utah caught the attention of Edwards.

He thinks the Cougars got a good reading of their sophomore quarterback, Jaren Hall.

“I think they felt what the quarterback could do,” Edwards said. “They have a nice offensive line that does a nice job of pushing people east and west and the runners do a great job of hitting soft spots in your zone, but it is the quarterback that is the explosive player.”

Hall made his presence felt in last Saturday’s win against Utah. He completed 18 of 30 passes for 149 yards and three touchdowns. Hall also showed his rushing ability with eight carries for 94 yards.

His performance earned him a place on the Davey O’Brien Award’s Great 8 list for Week 2 and a spot on the award’s midseason watch list.

Edwards said that the goal for the Sun Devils should be to not let Hill run around.

“Can we keep him in the pocket? Don’t let him get out and beat us on the perimeter,” Edwards said.

BYU’s receiving options may present their own challenges as well, mainly junior wide receiver Neil Pau’u.

He already has 11 receptions for 145 yards and three touchdowns. Most of those stats came from BYU’s season opener against Arizona, when he caught eight passes for 126 yards and two touchdowns.

Extra points

Edwards said on Monday that he was “hoping” that wide receiver Elijah Badger would be able to get reps this week. However, Badger was omitted from the team’s depth chart, which was released on Tuesday.

ASU’s defense will face a BYU team that has not turned the ball over in three straight games, dating back to the 2020 Boca Raton Bowl. It’s the first time that’s happened for BYU since LaVell Edwards began his coaching tenure with the Cougars in 1972.

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No. 19 Arizona State looks for more explosive passing vs. No. 23 BYU