ASU enters Saturday’s road contest against Oregon State as one of the top statistical defenses in the Pac-12, but the Sun Devils (5-3, 3-2 Pac-12) need a strong showing to prove they belong in the conversation.
After allowing just 85 points in the first six games of the season, the Sun Devils have allowed 88 points in the last two weeks.
“Games like this after games like that (are when) you want to bounce back and show the nation we are still some of the top dogs in the country,” junior safety Alden Darby said.
No. 11 Oregon State’s (6-1, 4-1 Pac-12) 25 points per game certainly do not jump out on paper, but junior quarterback Cody Vaz and the Beavers’ offense, averaging 311.7 passing yards per game, are the most potent aerial attack the Sun Devils will face this season.
“They can really throw the football well,” ASU coach Todd Graham said. “They have some skill players, and they can protect their quarterback well.”
In addition to a strong passing attack, the Sun Devils will also be lining up against a pro-style offense, which they are not as familiar with since most of their opponents have run a spread attack this season.
“We just have to do our job, stay fundamentally sound, stay focused and stay locked in,” Darby said. “It’s real simple. At the end of the day, just doing our jobs (is all we need to do).”
Offensively, ASU is in for a challenge as well. Oregon State’s defense is only allowing 17 points per game, which ranks them No. 12 in the nation.
Junior defensive end Scott Crichton and senior cornerback Jordan Poyer lead the Oregon State defense. Crichton has 12.5 tackles for loss this season, while Poyer has five interceptions — one of which was returned for a touchdown.
“Their defensive line is a strength for them,” Graham said. “It starts up front, and they are very sound about what they are doing. … (I’m) really impressed with how well they cover in space in the secondary. They are not going to make stupid mistakes.”
Graham does not believe the Beavers will make unnecessary mistakes and knows the Sun Devils cannot afford to as well.
Not only is ASU facing its toughest road test of the season, but the Sun Devils are still fighting for a Pac-12 South title. Back-to-back losses to No. 4 Oregon and UCLA made the trek to the Pac-12 Championship game difficult, but ASU knows its goal is still in sight.
However, the team also understands the window of opportunity is quickly closing.
“The key (against Oregon State) is knowing that we are still playing for a championship,” Darby said. “We’re playing for a championship in November, and that’s amazing. We’re focused on one goal.”
The focus Darby mentioned will be vital, as there are always distractions while playing road games. Redshirt senior receiver Kevin Ozier also knows how important the team’s focus will be if ASU wants to escape Corvallis with its third road win of the season.
“There has to be the same intensity on the first play as on the last play,” Ozier said. “We need to finish all four quarters. That’s how we are going to win.”
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