Herm Edwards preps ASU for ‘double-chinstrap’ game without key players
TEMPE — Arizona State Sun Devils head coach Herm Edwards had to call an audible early Tuesday morning.
Due to a power outage within the ASU athletic facilities, ASU football had to start practice a few hours earlier than anticipated.
“It was chaos early this morning,” Edwards said. “Right around 7 a.m., it must’ve hit. Generally, it kind of goes away. So we had to cancel the (team) meeting because we couldn’t meet because we were sitting in the dark.”
The head coach added that the team would meet again later in the day to go over some things.
Tuesday also marked the penultimate practice in Tempe for the Sun Devils before they take on the Wisconsin Badgers in the Las Vegas Bowl at Allegiant Stadium on Dec. 30.
Arizona State is currently scheduled to be without some of its bigger names from the 2021 season, as most of them preparing for the 2022 NFL Draft. Those players include running back Rachaad White, cornerbacks Chase Lucas and Jack Jones, linebacker Darien Butler, plus offensive lineman Dohnovan West.
“We’ve kind of been that way all year,” Edwards said. “We didn’t have the same roster when we left training camp when the season started. Obviously going into this bowl game, it’s now the same roster we had during the season but that’s fine. We’ll play the players we have.”
Edwards added he expects those players who have opted out to be on the sidelines to support their teammates in the Las Vegas Bowl.
Other Sun Devils who will be participating in the 2022 East-West Shrine Bowl but have not opted out of ASU’s bowl game feature defensive tackle D.J. Davidson and offensive lineman Kellen Diesch.
“You can anticipate some of the guys during the season. You kind of get it, understand it. It happened my first year here,” Edwards said. “It’s happened every year we’ve gone to a bowl — we’ve been missing some players.
“It’s just the way it is, so you don’t worry about it. You just don’t. You allow the guys who have been backing them up to get an opportunity now to play in a bowl game. And they’re excited about playing.”
Some of those younger guys are defensive back Jordan Clark and running back Daniyel Ngata, both of whom will have to step up to the No. 1 spot on the depth chart after the aforementioned starters at those respective positions opted out in order to prepare for the NFL Draft.
Wide receiver Johnny Wilson — who missed half the season with a hamstring strain — and backup running back DeaMonte “Chip” Trayanum are also both no longer with the program after transferring to Florida State on Dec. 23 and to Ohio State on Dec. 25, respectively. Trayanum had entered the transfer portal on Nov. 29.
“Well the backs we have left, it’ll be interesting,” Edwards said. “That’ll be a lot of fun, too. Ngata obviously is excited about the opportunity and (George Hart III), one of our walk-on kids is excited about the opportunity, so it’ll be interesting.”
“We’ll line up 11 on offense and 11 on defense and we’ll play and we’ll enjoy playing,” he added. “We have to play hard. It’s going to be a physical game. I call it a double-chinstrap game because they’re a physical football team so you better be ready for that.”
Wisconsin was led by the one-two punch of running backs Braelon Allen and Chez Mellusi, both of whom combined for 1,924 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns on an average of 5.8 yards per carry. The bulk of that came from the 6-foot-2, 240-pound Allen, who rushed for 1,109 yards of those yards on 157 carries (7.1 yards per attempt) to go along with 12 scores. However, the Badgers will be without Mellusi after he suffered a season-ending leg injury against Rutgers on Nov. 6.
To put that into perspective for ASU fans, White put up 1,006 yards on 182 carries (5.5 yards per rush) and found pay dirt 15 times. However, White also contributed in the passing game with 43 receptions for 456 yards and one touchdown, whereas the two Wisconsin running backs combined for only 13 catches for 103 yards and no scores.
“We have some young guys who are excited about the opportunity,” Edwards said.
“I told them this, I said, ‘Let’s see how excited you are when that big back comes running out there at you and you have to tackle him. It’s all fun right now until you have to tackle that big guy.’ So we’ll see what happens.”
Defensively, Wisconsin fronts the best run defense in the entire country — only allowing 65.2 yards per game on the ground — to go along with the No. 6 scoring defense at just 16.2 points allowed per contest. Compare that to Arizona State’s 29.7 points scored per game and No. 24 rushing attack of 202.3 yards per contest, and obviously something has to give.
And unfortunately for Sun Devil fans, the Badgers will have the bulk of their better players on the field for Dec. 30’s Las Vegas Bowl at Allegiant Stadium.
“They do, and good for them. Every team is a little bit different,” Edwards said. “We’ve kind of gone through this now with our bowl season, we seem to be missing players at times. We get it.
“Been fortunate for us, a couple guys are first-round picks and elected not to play… We appreciate everything that these guys have done for us. The guys that aren’t going to play, they got us here. Some of these guys — Chase happens to be one of them — have been here for five years. We get it and we understand it. It’s just part of college football right now.”
ASU’s final practice in Tempe will be on Wednesday before the team departs for Christmas and then heads out to Sin City via bus for the 5.5-hour drive.