ASU seeks fewer miscues in homecoming against Washington State
Last week’s bye gave Arizona State a chance to reevaluate all phases of the game. Even when looking at every aspect of football, one issue yet again steps into the spotlight: penalties.
The Sun Devils return home for a homecoming battle against Washington State on Saturday.
ASU wants to fully put behind its second-half disaster against Utah that saw the Utes take control of their Pac-12 South destiny in a 35-21 result.
Washington State has gone through a coaching overhaul in recent weeks. Former head coach Nick Rolovich and four assistants were released from their duties on Oct. 18 due to not adhering to the COVID-19 vaccine mandate outlined by the state of Washington.
In WSU’s first game under acting head coach Jake Dickert, the Cougars fell to BYU 21-19. WSU came within two points on a touchdown with less than four minutes remaining, but did not get another chance on offense.
What: Arizona State (5-2, 3-1) vs Washington State (4-4, 3-2)
When: Saturday at 12 p.m.
Betting Line via FanDuel: ASU -15.5
Radio: 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station
Penalties continuing to plague Sun Devils
Penalties turned into a common problem this season for ASU. Two weeks ago, it came up again in one of the most inopportune times yet.
A dubious 13 penalties against Utah now has the Sun Devils in territory that has not been seen since the days of Dirk Koetter.
ASU has three games this season of 13 or more penalties. It’s the first time since 2005 that ASU has reached that mark. According to College Football Reference, ASU has had only nine games of 13 or more penalties since 2000.
Before this season, it had been 11 years since ASU had 13 or more penalties in a single game.
The Sun Devils are the second-worst team in all of FBS football this year with 9.57 flags per game. Only Ole Miss holds a worse mark at 10.43.
ASU head coach Herm Edwards said that being 5-2 is a feat itself when considering all of the team’s penalties.
“You’re actually spotting a team 100 yards,” Edwards said. “You’re saying you can have 100 yards and we’re going to play from a deficit and go try to win. That’s very difficult to do. We found a way to do it, but you can’t keep living in that world.”
Edwards said no matter what is done in practice to try and alleviate the issue, it’s up to the players to fix the miscues.
“They have to go, ‘OK, no foolish fouls. let’s stay away from that,'” Edwards said. “There’s going to be a penalty every once in a while, but we got to get that corrected if we want to win in a fashion where that doesn’t prevent us from winning.”
Washington State defense reminds Hill of Utah
The defining thing for ASU offensive coordinator Zak Hill in the Sun Devils’ second-half implosion against Utah was a stark change of momentum.
ASU may need to be ready to face some of the same types of defensive abilities of the Utes this weekend. That’s because Hill said Tuesday that WSU’s defense presents some similarities to what Utah brought.
“They fly around,” Hill said. “They are a group of guys that have got good experience, they’re all older, and they’ve got some speed. They play hard, they play physical and they’re very active.”
All of those traits add up to a very effective defense. WSU leads the Pac-12 with eight fumble recoveries and is second in the conference with 15 takeaways. Both marks are in the top-15 nationally.
Certain individuals lead the way, but none more so over the course of his career than graduate senior linebacker Jahad Woods. Woods is sixth in the Pac-12 this season with 7.6 tackles per game. His career total of 380 tackles is third nationally among active players.
Defensive lineman Ron Stone Jr. provides a threat to get into the backfield at any moment. His 8.5 tackles for a loss this season is second in the Pac-12. He also has four sacks this season, tied for second in the conference.