No. 22 Arizona State reminded of loss in Provo in preparing for Stanford
No. 22 Arizona State’s opponent this week, the Stanford Cardinal, reminds ASU defensive coordinator Antonio Pierce of the team’s bad night on Sept. 18 in Provo.
“It’s BYU all over again,” Pierce said.
He said the Cardinal offer similar passing schemes to the Cougars, who ASU gave up three passing touchdowns against in its 27-17 road loss.
The Sun Devils meet Stanford on Friday night in Sun Devil Stadium. ASU had impressive team and individual efforts in ASU’s 42-23 road win against UCLA last week. Looking back at that game too long, though, may lead to issues against an opponent who has proven that it is no easy team to beat.
After scoring a game-tying touchdown on an untimed down in the fourth quarter, Stanford defeated then-No. 3 Oregon 31-24 in overtime. The win gave Stanford its second win against a top-15 opponent, becoming the first non-SEC school to achieve that feat this season.
What: No. 22 Arizona State (4-1, 2-0) vs Stanford (3-2, 2-1)
When: Friday at 7:30 p.m.
Betting Line via FanDuel: ASU -13.5
Radio: 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station
Stanford reminding Sun Devils of Provo
Pierce said on Tuesday that Stanford’s offense may try to wear the Sun Devils out with the passing game mixed in.
“They look like they’re a running team, but with the quarterback they have now, I think they’re going to want to air it out a little more,” Pierce said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if they try to come out and try to play big boy football against us and pound us a little bit.”
Redshirt freshman quarterback Tanner McKee shined for Stanford against Oregon, completing 20 of 36 passes for 230 and three touchdowns. His efforts earned him Pac-12 Freshman of the Week honors for the second time this season.
“The young quarterback really has a nice arm,” Edwards said of McKee. “He’s got a nice delivery and can touch anywhere on the field with a throw of the ball.”
He also has a reliable target in junior wide receiver Elijah Higgins. Higgins had six receptions for 62 yards and the game-tying touchdown last week.
Defensively, Stanford possesses the worst rushing defense in the Pac-12, allowing an average of 212.8 rushing yards per game.
Adjustments and freshness keys for Sun Devils
The Sun Devils have shined in the second half in previous games, but not as much as they did in the Rose Bowl. ASU shut the Bruins out after exchanging scores in the second quarter.
Adjustments have helped the Sun Devils throughout the season. ASU has a +62 scoring margin in the second half this season. That is compared with just a +23 scoring margin in the first half. The first half margin is heavily affected by a 21-7 halftime deficit in ASU’s only loss of the season against BYU.
Edwards praised his team for being open to adjustments throughout the game.
“The players are tuned in to some things we might do a little different or some things we saw in the first half that we would like to counter on,” Edwards said. “You have to make good halftime adjustments and we’ve been able to do that so far.”
The Sun Devils delivered their biggest statement last weekend in the fourth quarter. ASU sacked UCLA senior quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson four times in the quarter.
Pierce said not having too many tired players late in the game led to its late-game success.
“Our goal, and hopefully it’s shown, in the fourth quarter is to be the fresher team,” Pierce said. “That’s why we rotate so much. That’s why we give guys a lot of opportunities and reps early in the season. We needed some fresh legs to go chase that quarterback and get him on the ground and run with those receivers.”
The Sun Devils will be without redshirt senior linebacker Kyle Soelle in the first half after his targeting penalty at the end of the third quarter on Saturday. Soelle is ASU’s leading tackler with 37 combined tackles, with 3.5 tackles for a loss.
Pierce is confident that the rest of the defense will be able to pick things up in his absence.
“We rotate linebackers, no different from when I coached them last year,” Pierce said. “You got Darien Butler, Merlin Robertson, Eric Gentry, Will Shaffer and Connor Soelle [and] I feel really comfortable with those guys.”