Arizona State prepares for Arizona, to decrease Cam Skattebo’s workload
Nov 22, 2023, 4:25 PM | Updated: Nov 24, 2023, 8:08 am
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
TEMPE — It may have only been three seasons ago, but 70-7 feels like a lot longer when looking at the two teams preparing to line up on Saturday as the Arizona State Sun Devils (3-8) ready for the No. 16 Arizona Wildcats (8-3).
Prior to last season, ASU had reeled off five-straight wins in the rivalry, including a famed trouncing during the COVID-19 season.
However, the tide, seemingly, is turning toward Arizona, which won last year’s showdown in Tucson 38-35 and has reeled off wins against four ranked opponents in 2023. The Wildcats could even qualify for the Pac-12 title game with a win over the Sun Devils if there is a Friday Oregon State victory against Oregon.
“Their quarterback is playing at a high level, they have two wide receivers that are first round, top-two to three round draft picks. And then their offensive line is big, defensive line is big — a lot of transfers of the defense line that they’re stout up front,” Arizona State head football coach Kenny Dillingham said Monday. “They stopped the run and they’re very simple. They don’t bust. I mean, there’s not many, I shouldn’t say flaws, but there are not many wide-open people on the tape because they’re they’re simple defensively.”
Redshirt freshman quarterback Noah Fifita is a four-time Pac-12 Freshman of the Week award winner, having posted wins against four ranked opponents since taking over for the then-injured Jayden de Laura.
Fifita has posted a 5-2 record with noteworthy wins against Washington State, Oregon State, UCLA and Utah under his belt. He’s thrown for 1,988 yards and 18 touchdowns to just four interceptions.
Dillingham described the Wildcat offense as “more consistent” since Fifita took over under center.
“He doesn’t take sacks,” Dillingham said. “When you’re hard to sack, it sounds like such a fundamental thing, you can throw the ball deep. … When you move around and prevent those negatives like he’s doing, it allows you to call the game so aggressively and without fear that you’re gonna have more explosive plays offensively. … And those shots are gonna open up the run game.”
No more one-man show … hopefully
Cam Skattebo has been a Swiss Army knife in the backfield this season for Dillingham and the Sun Devils.
He’s shown off his talent running the ball, going for 680 yards on 147 carries for eight scores, including a long of 66 yards. He also has 24 catches for 286 yards and a score.
Skattebo has even been under center in the “WildSkat” formation, completing 6 of 14 passes for a touchdown and an interception. Finally, Skattebo has punted eight times for 338 yards.
But is he doing too much?
“One-hundred percent,” Dillingham said. “(Hopefully) we’re gonna get DeCarlos (Brooks) back this week, so that’s gonna help us from that perspective of (Skattebo) not having to do as much, which is huge. Some of our best football games that we’ve played on offense have been with DeCarlos back there and having that balance and being able to get to (Skattebo) on the break.”
Brooks, who has been out since the week of the Utah game with a tear in his hamstring, has 42 carries for 220 yards and three scores on the season.