Badger run game poses challenge for ASU

HARD LANDING: Junior wide receiver Mike Willie lands after catching a pass during Saturdayís 4120 win over NAU. Willie finished with eight receptions for 114 yards. (Photo by Scott Stuk)

The Wisconsin Badgers’ offense has held one thing constant over the years: They love to run the football and they do it well.

With the reigning Big Ten offensive player of the year and Heisman Trophy candidate John Clay in the backfield, ASU’s focus on Saturday will be slowing the UW ground attack.

Through two games, UW averages 5.1 yards per carry, led by Clay’s 6.5 yard average.

ASU defensive coordinator Craig Bray wants his defense to play physical against the physical Badgers.

“We have a lot of reads where we are bringing safeties into the box and sometimes we even bring corners into the box based on certain things,” Bray said. “It is really being physical, reading your key and (then) run through and play.”

UW likes to use its run game to set up the pass and often run a lot of play-action passes. Bray doesn’t expect the Badgers’ game plan to differ from that on Saturday.

“The same stuff they always do,” Bray said of what he expects from the UW offense “They are going to line up in two tight (ends) and with two backs and run a lot of power and a lot of read. Then they are going to play-action pass and throw the ball a little bit. When they get in the big sets they run the football.”

Defense making mistakes

Bray has not been pleased with how his defense has played through two games.

“Not near as good as we need to be,” Bray said. “We have underachieved for whatever reason. This will be a good mark for us, we’ve acted bored and you don’t act like that if you want to be a good defense.”

Bray doesn’t quite know why his defense has played like they are “bored.”

“I don’t know what it is,” Bray said. “I’m not sure a psychologist would know either.”

Crank up the volume

For the second straight practice, ASU pumped in artificial crowd noise to the Verde Dickey Dome to simulate what it will be faced with on Saturday at Camp Randall Stadium; however, this time it worked a lot better.

After struggling to get the crowd noise to play at a loud volume on Tuesday, it was cranked up loud on Wednesday.

“We turned up the volume a bit to get used to what we are going to see on Saturday, particularly on offense,” ASU coach Dennis Erickson said. “It was a little louder than I anticipated, but it was good for us.”

Erickson said the crowd noise is mainly for the offense, to get used to calling plays through different methods of communication.

“We are signaling things in at the line of scrimmage, we have not faced that yet,” Erickson said. “That’s why we did it today and we’ll do it again tomorrow so that we get used to it.  Verbally, you aren’t going to be able to do it.”

A more fun simulation also took place on Wednesday, as the song “Jump Around” by House of Pain was played during warm-ups.  “Jump Around” is a popular tradition at Camp Randall Stadium and the song is played right before the start of the fourth quarter, causing the stadium to often shake from the fans jumping.

Practice Wrap Up

ASU will not practice at its usual time on Thursday, because of the early trip to Madison. The Sun Devils will have a practice Thursday morning, before flying out Thursday afternoon.

“We have one more left,” Erickson said. “We made some mistakes the last couple of days and we’ve added a thing or two offensively, hopefully we can finish this thing off [Thursday].”

Despite some mistakes, Erickson did call this week “the best week of practice” of the season.

Injury update

Sophomore defensive lineman Toa Tuitea and junior tight end Trevor Kohl both practiced on Wednesday and should play Saturday.

Sophomore defensive tackle Corey Adams practiced fully for the first time since suffering a knee injury at the end of fall camp.

Adams’ status for Saturday is still up in the air, but he will make the trip to UW.

Reach the reporter at andrew.gruman@asu.edu