The Sun Devils had to take their game to another level for their first road test of the season last week. Now they take it up another notch as PAC-12 season officially gets underway with the Utah Utes coming to Tempe.
With conference play beginning, new challenges arise. And ASU head coach Todd Graham acknowledged Wednesday that this coming challenge, specifically for the offense, will force the team to play better than they have to this point.
“Coach (Mike) Norvell believes we’ve had our best week of preparation,” said Graham. “We’re going to need to do that because we are playing the best defense we’ve seen so far.”
Utah has been off to a great start this season defensively as they are currently second in the PAC-12 in total defense. The only team ahead if them is Oregon State but they have only played one game compared to Utah and ASU having played three.
The Utes have given up the least amount of yardage and second least amount of plays in the conference if you don’t count Oregon State. A high amount of plays and a fast tempo is ASU’s style and they will hope to change the trend that Utah has set through three games.
“We’ve got to get those guys sideline to sideline having to play more snaps then they are maybe accustomed too and trying to match what out tempo is,” explained ASU offensive coordinator Mike Norvell. “That’s something we’ve worked extremely hard on this week and I think it’s been a good week of preparation.”
Utah will be bringing the pressure on the Sun Devils quarterbacks and ball carriers. The Utes are +6 in turnover margin and tied for fourth in the conference in sacks led by their stud defensive lineman, Star Lotuleiei who has a sack and three tackles for loss so far.
“We had pressure on us in the last game that we didn’t have in week one and two and your going to get even more of that,” mentioned Graham. “We need our best players to get the ball so I’d like to see us have a break out game.”
Graham stated earlier in the week one of those playmakers, senior running back Cameron Marshall, has looked the best he has all season in practice. Though Marshall has played in every game, it’s been a tough go for him as he missed time during camp and spring practice due to injury. But now Marshall seems to be becoming more and more acclimated with the system.
“He is a veteran, he’s our leader, he’s a guy we need to get the ball to,” mentioned Graham. “If they take that away then we’ll get the ball to someone else but I’d like to see him have a breakout game.”
ASU will look to come out fast against this Utah defense that is coming off an impressive showing against the once ranked BYU Cougars.
Kick-off is Saturday at 7:00 from Sun Devil Stadium.