SEATTLE – Herm Edwards arrived back on the Arizona State campus sometime around 3:30 a.m. last Sunday. Rather than going home and not sleeping, Edwards immediately went to work at finding the reasons behind the Sun Devils’ first loss of the season.
It was a quick assessment knowing the Sun Devils travel to No. 10 Washington in their Pac-12 Conference opener on Saturday night.
“You can’t sleep because you’re always thinking of stuff at night. When you wake up, you just start writing things down. That’s the life of a coach,” Edwards said.
After a promising first two weeks, Edwards’ return to coaching after years in the NFL hit its first speed bump when Arizona State lost 28-21 at San Diego State, knocking the Sun Devils (2-1) from the AP Top 25 and creating the first challenge of the regular season for Edwards and his team.
Solving some of the offensive issues that lingered for three games won’t be simple while playing a Saturday night game in one of the more difficult venues on the West Coast. It’s against a Washington squad seeking a bit of payback for last year’s lackluster 13-7 loss to the Sun Devils in the desert.
Arizona State has won 11 of the past 12 meetings against the Huskies, but Washington coach Chris Petersen said he wouldn’t be referencing last year’s game.
“I think it’s completely different. That’s the mindset every week. It’s not about referencing a game. It’s just like, you’ve got to play,” Petersen said. “You’ve got to play your best or you’re going to get beat. I just really believe that.”
Washington (2-1, 1-0 Pac-12) passed its first test of its conference schedule last week with a 21-7 win at Utah. The Huskies’ defense remained dominant, but their offense was again inconsistent. Myles Gaskin jump-started the Huskies’ run game with 143 yards rushing against the Utes. Quarterback Jake Browning continued his shaky play throwing his fourth interception in three games.
Edwards knows the Sun Devils must be better at stopping the run after allowing San Diego State 311 yards.
“You watch our last tape, we weren’t very good against the run due to a lot of alignment errors and basically missing some tackles allowed them big plays. Prior to that, we were pretty good versus the run,” Edwards said. “We have to get that corrected, but they are going to take their shots.”
At one time during the recruiting process, close friends Washington’s Byron Murphy and Arizona State’s N’Keal Harry were considered a college package deal. Instead, they’ll play against each other for the first time. Harry is Arizona State’s leading receiver with 21 catches and four touchdowns, while Murphy is arguably the best of Washington’s stellar secondary.
Arizona State has the quarterback in Manny Wilkens and the receiver in Harry, but its run game has yet to find much success. The Sun Devils were held to 44 yards rushing against Michigan State and 36 yards against San Diego State. Eno Benjamin had 131 yards rushing in the opener against UTSA and 48 yards total in the two games since.
Washington’s concern about who would become its go-to wide receiver has been put to rest in three weeks. Aaron Fuller has 19 receptions and two 100-yard receiving games in the first three games. Fuller had six catches for 108 yards last week against Utah. The only item lacking from Fuller’s strong start is he has yet to find the end zone. Ty Jones and Quinten Pounds are the only two receivers with TD catches thus far.
Browning has not had the best of games against Arizona State in his career. The Sun Devils have intercepted Washington’s senior quarterback five times and sacked him nine times in three previous games. Browning was held to 139 yards passing in last year’s loss. In his freshman season, he threw three interceptions against the Sun Devils.
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