ASU hopes run game travels, passing attack improves in rainy Washington
TEMPE — Coming into the 2021 season, Arizona State Sun Devils junior quarterback Jayden Daniels was a potential Heisman candidate after impressive freshman and sophomore campaigns.
However, the bell cow for ASU’s offense of late has been coming from the backfield in senior running back Rachaad White.
“He’s the spark to our offense when you get home the ball because you never know what’s going to happen. … He reminds me more of Marcus Allen,” head coach Herm Edwards said Monday.
“He has the same stature as Marcus had and has the same ability to cut. Marcus was a good vision guy who could cut and catch the ball really well.”
White is coming off of a 202-yard and three-touchdown performance on 28 carries (7.2 per rush) in Saturday night’s 31-16 win over the USC Trojans, good enough to award him the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week.
But he isn’t the only running back contributing to the Sun Devils’ rushing attack this season, as sophomore DeaMonte “Chip” Trayanum scored the game’s opening touchdown on his third carry of the day. However, Trayanum coughed up the ball on his next rushing attempt — his second fumble in as many games — and didn’t see the field for the remainder of the contest.
Edwards said after the game that he didn’t bench the sophomore because of his turnover, but was just riding the hot hand of White — who had two rushing touchdowns on 47- and 50-yard runs — and assured that Trayanum would be running the ball for ASU against Washington.
And with the forecast currently projecting a temperature hovering just above 50 degrees and a 50% chance of rain, Edwards and Co. will look to turn the contest into what he calls a “muddy game,” meaning a hard-fought physical battle that will be decided in the trenches.
Edwards has spoken about how dangerous it can be from an offensive standpoint when the team is in obvious passing downs because it allows pass rushers to pin their ears back and go after Daniels without the threat of running the ball.
Arizona State’s best passing performance this year came in the 42-23 win over UCLA at the Rose Bowl on Oct. 2, as Daniels went 13-for-19 for a season-high 287 yards and two touchdowns.
The junior quarterback also didn’t throw any interceptions that game, something that has become a concern after throwing two picks in each of the Sun Devils’ last two contests. Daniels now has seven INTs on the year after only throwing three in his first 16 starts in a Sun Devil uniform.
“He can’t do it by himself though and I think that’s the conversation I have to have with him that you just can’t do it alone,” Edwards said. “He understands, he’s the quarterback. He’ll get through it, he’ll be fine.
“We’ve got some work to do and I think the thing is just getting familiar with the receivers. … We have to get it cleaned up, I know that because it can help us. When we’re clicking and our pass game is going, it’s fun to watch now because explosive plays are a part of football. It’s hard to just methodically move the ball down the field. … It’s easier to fly to California than drive, right? So throwing the ball is important. You have to get it in there man and you gotta hit some of those things. … Every once in a while you have to hit one.”
And with the modern college football landscape continuing to be more prosperous for lethal air assaults — see LSU and Alabama the last two seasons after being run-dominant teams for decades — Edwards knows how vital the passing game can be down the stretch for ASU.
“It’s just really the connection with the receivers and the quarterback,” Edwards said. “With the receivers, there’s been a lot of guys in and out of the lineup. That’s a little bit of the problem as well. Been a few (passes) that have been dropped that you could clean up.
“Been some Jayden probably wishes he could take back as far as maybe putting it in a little window that was a little tighter. So it’s definitely a work in progress, there’s no doubt about that. … We still have an opportunity the next three weeks to clean that up before we go to a bowl, which is kind of important as well. I think they know that on offense so we’ll see how it progresses over the next couple weeks.”
Edwards on cornerback Jack Jones, who missed the USC game due to injury:
“He’s gonna play this week. He’ll be ready to roll.”