ASU coach Shaun Aguano: ‘We need to make a change’ defending the run

Nov 8, 2022, 6:57 AM | Updated: Nov 11, 2022, 10:43 am
Arizona State interim head coach Shaun Aguano shouts instructions to his players during the second ...

Arizona State interim head coach Shaun Aguano shouts instructions to his players during the second half of an NCAA college football game against UCLA in Tempe, Ariz., Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022. UCLA won 50-36. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

TEMPE — The Arizona State Sun Devils had their worst performance of the season defensively in Saturday night’s 50-36 loss to the No. 10 UCLA Bruins.

ASU allowed 557 yards to Chip Kelly’s offense, with 402 of those coming on the ground. That metric marks the most rushing yards surrendered since 2016 when the Arizona Wildcats ran for 511 and only threw for a total of eight pass attempts.

Compare that to UCLA on Saturday night, who only threw it three times in the second half and finished the game with 14 explosive plays — 10+ yards on runs and 20+ yards on passes — while converting on 82% of third downs (9-for-11).

“It was pretty bad. … Not really good. I think our guys were doing more than they should and not doing their job,” interim head coach Shaun Aguano said Monday. “They were surpassing their run fits and then they weren’t doing their job once they wrapped up.

“We have to clean all of that up. It’s either put an extra person in the box or making sure we do our jobs. I didn’t think we did our jobs. … I think they’re trying to make plays instead of just doing their job.”

Aguano stated that it’s not an excuse, but did note that the Sun Devils defense was without two key defensive linemen in the second half.

The starting duo of Omarr Norman-Lott and Nesta Jade Silvera — two of the team’s biggest run stuffers — were sick coming into the ballgame and were both unable to finish the first half because of it.

“As expected, we were thin so we knew we were going to struggle up there. We’ll be healthy this week. But we need to make a change. We need to make sure this is addressed. I got with the defensive staff yesterday and understood that they have my attention in regard to the things that need to be done and we need to make sure that we’re aggressive and taking it to them.

“I just thought that UCLA dictated to us. (QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson) is a heck of an athlete and it’s tough for us to cover that guy because he’s the extra guy. But we need to make sure that we stop the run and that’s a whole conversation that we had.”

But even with a fully-healthy defensive line, UCLA ran for more yards than Eastern Michigan (305) did in Week 3 in what ended up being former head coach Herm Edwards’ final game at the helm.

In fact, half of Arizona State’s losses have come when it has allowed over 200 rushing yards — Utah’s 205 being the third — and all three of those games have been at home in Sun Devil Stadium.

So if ASU plans on running the table and winning out to finish bowl eligble at 6-6, getting gashed in the run game is going to have to be fixed in a hurry.

“Let’s be honest, we didn’t play very well — that’s from the top. We didn’t stop the run, we didn’t fit the run, we gave up explosive plays in the run and pass. So when it’s all said and done, we didn’t play well,” defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson said Monday. “Just fitting the run, doing what you’re supposed to do, trying to not do too much, trusting your teammate. We got in trouble sometimes with our eyes, missed tackles in the open field. You look at some of those things.

“I thought we had a great week of practice, but what you find out real fast is you can’t simulate another team’s motions and how they execute their stuff. I’m not going to sit here and act like everything is peachy, we didn’t play well. … We were prepared. Now did we execute? No, we didn’t execute.”

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