A year ago, ASU had one of the best pass defenses in the country. This year, it hasn’t been truly tested against the pass, until now.
Against Washington State, the Sun Devils will get to see just how good their pass defense truly is.
Defensive coordinator Paul Randolph said the pass defense “picked up right from where we ended a year ago,” when the Sun Devils were ranked No. 3 nationally in pass defense.
“No doubt I think, pass-wise, we’re right on target,” Randolph said. “Naturally we’ll be tested this week with it with Washington State, but I think we’re right on target.”
Tested they will be.
The Cougars like to throw the ball, a lot. In fact, in their last outing against No. 3 Oregon, they set an NCAA record for pass attempts with 89. With the ball in the air so much, the ASU secondary will be chomping at the bit.
“It’s exciting,” said safeties coach and co-defensive coordinator Chris Ball. “We look forward to being able to really concentrate on the pass. That’s what we live for. So, to be able to know the ball is going to be thrown 80-plus times, that excites us.”
The ASU defensive backs have plenty of reason to be excited. The Cougars pass the ball 76 percent of the time on offense and rank sixth in the country in passing offense, averaging 373 passing yards per game.
WSU has also attempted more passes than anyone in the country, putting the ball in the air 470 times in eight games.
“We see a team that likes to attack through the air,” said redshirt senior cornerback Osahon Irabor. “They throw the ball about 80-90 times a game, so for us in the secondary, we have to lock in and make sure we’re playing good coverage.”
While redshirt junior quarterback Connor Halliday is the lynchpin of the offense, perhaps the most dangerous part of coach Mike Leach’s “Air Raid” offense is the receiving corps. The group is led by sophomore wide receiver Gabe Marks, who leads the team in receiving yards with 655 and is tied for the team lead in touchdowns with five.
“They’re all talented. They got a group of guys that present some problems,” Ball said. “They run good routes, they catch the ball and they fit the scheme, so it’s going to be a big challenge for it us.”
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