Territorial Cup: ASU’s defense preps for gauntlet from Arizona’s ‘3-headed monster’ at WR

Nov 24, 2022, 12:00 PM | Updated: Nov 25, 2022, 7:32 am

TEMPE — The Arizona State Sun Devils will have their hands full trying to defend the Arizona Wildcats’ passing attack in Friday’s Territorial Cup.

Arizona’s wide receivers room is led by a three-headed monster in sophomore Dorian Singer, junior Jacob Cowing and freshman Tetairoa McMillan.

Singer, who graduated from Pinnacle High School in Phoenix, leads the team with 1,014 yards on 60 receptions and six touchdowns — good enough to average 92.18 per game and 16.10 per catch.

Cowing, who transferred from UTEP this offseason after graduating from Maricopa High School, has the most catches of any Wildcat with 80 to go along with 1,001 yards (91 per contest) and seven TDs.

And while McMillan’s 39 grabs for 702 yards may not jump off the page, his team-leading eight touchdowns and 18 yards per catch most certainly do.

“They do have a three-headed monster. Two of them have over 1,000 yards and the other one has 600-some yards, but they throw the ball a lot too,” ASU interim head coach Shaun Aguano said on Monday. “They’re great route runners. I think they’re good athletes.

“I think that our secondary is going to be up for a big challenge and the way we can defend that is we can hopefully take up front and put pressure from our front four and five. But it is going to be a huge challenge and we have to make sure that we contain not only the quarterback but contain those receivers because they’re going to make plays and they have been making plays the whole year.”

Leading that three-headed monster is sophomore quarterback Jayden de Laura, who transferred from Washington State in the offseason. In the Cougars’ 34-21 win over the Sun Devils in Tempe last season, de Laura was 17-for-27 (63%) for 234 yards with two touchdown passes and one interception. He also added eight yards and one score on three carries.

This season, the Arizona QB has a 25-12 TD-INT ratio on 63% passing while throwing for an average of 316.8 yards per game. De Laura has also rushed 71 times for 125 yards and four scores.

ASU defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson will have a unique challenge in trying to keep de Laura contained and not allow him to use his athletic ability outside of the pocket.

Expect the DC still dial up pressure sparingly, but mostly bring only the four defensive linemen and keep either Kyle Soelle or Merlin Robertson as a spy while the other five defensive backs — three corners and two safeties — in the nickel package are deployed in predominantly zone schemes. Too much man coverage against a mobile quarterback can be deadly on longer plays once DBs turn their backs to the QB.

“We haven’t contained the quarterback like we should have and then when they make off-schedule throws, we are having dirty eyes looking in the backfield looking at the quarterback,” Aguano said. “I think sometimes we are playing a little too soft to tell you the truth and not coming up and competing.

“Especially when there’s a third-and-14, everybody in the stadium knows they’re going to run it at the sticks and we’re in bail technique. So it’s just things from an understanding standpoint, but we have to get better and contain the quarterback. We have to get better at coming up and competing and we have to get better at just being more physical from a defensive standpoint.”

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Territorial Cup: ASU’s defense preps for gauntlet from Arizona’s ‘3-headed monster’ at WR