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ASU football game preview: Sun Devils and Spartans will collide on Saturday

ASU is looking to fix mistakes and have a detail-oriented game versus Michigan State


ASU players celebrate after redshirt junior defensive back Paul Lucas (32) downs a punt in the first half of the Sun Devils 49-7 blowout win over the UTSA Roadrunners at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona, on Saturday, Sept. 1, 2018.

ASU football started the season off with a decisive 49-7 win over the University of Texas at San Antonio, but the team does not have time to dwell on the victory as they face off with a more formidable opponent in Michigan State this weekend. 

“We won a football game and that’s fantastic,” head coach Herm Edwards said. “Now, we’ve got to win another one against a really, really good football team. This will be a good test for us.”

Michigan State won its first game of the season against Utah State by a score of 38-31. There were issues within this game for the Spartans and the same goes for ASU in its home-opener, despite what the discrepancies in the scores may indicate. 

“We’ve got to line up faster. We’ve got to pay attention to detail faster,” junior wide receiver N’Keal Harry said. “And we’ve just got to focus on the little things.”

The Sun Devil offense went stagnant at times throughout the game against UTSA, and it was only a few big plays that enabled ASU to have the success it did. Certain details were ignored and it left the offense with only a few members tallying points. 

Furthermore, many mistakes were made, which led to 11 penalties that ASU will not be able to take against Michigan State. 

“We sputtered some offensively and that’s going to happen this week, by the way,” Edwards said. “It's Michigan State. They’re the seventh ranked defense or something like that. It’s not like you’re just going to have your way with them because you’re not. There is going to be a lot of bad plays and we’ve got to realize that and not get flustered.”

After one game against Utah State, Michigan State is ranked 6th in rushing defense and 61st in total defense by the NCAA. However, ASU is ranked much higher in rushing and total defense as they placed second and 14th in those categories, respectively. 

Nonetheless, these stats are only from one game and Michigan State has been a powerhouse in Division I football for many years. 

“They find themselves very comfortable in uncomfortable situations,” Edwards said. “Last week was probably an uncomfortable situation for them at home. … They’re a team that doesn’t panic, and played well and made the plays to win a football game, which is the critical part.”

Neither team is ranked especially high offensively at this point in the season, but the teams are very comparable in regard to the players that drove their team's last weekend. 

Michigan State has a lot of depth in the running back position, just as ASU displayed with sophomore Eno Benjamin and redshirt sophomore Isaiah Floyd

ASU’s redshirt senior quarterback Manny Wilkins will be matched up with Michigan State junior quarterback Brian Lewerke, who is from the Phoenix area. 

Related: Manny Wilkins was a power house, catalyst and leader in game one

Furthermore, Michigan’s senior wide receiver Felton Davis III is very similar to Harry's size and skill. He put up one of the Spartans touchdowns against Utah State, while Harry scored two touchdowns in week one.

"They have a similar receiver, Davis … It’ll be fun watching both of them,” Edwards said. “Hopefully we can slow their guy down.”

While Davis needs to be slowed down, Harry knows he and the rest of the Sun Devils need to speed their game up in order to break through the tough defensive and offensive lines Michigan State has in its arsenal. 

“Just playing fast,” Harry said. “We’ve got to wear teams out with our speed. … We’ve got to get used to playing through the entirety (of a game), and that’s what we focused on (in practices).”

This will be a pivotal early point in the season for ASU, but whatever the result, the Sun Devils are going to play their game. 

“Just keep doing what we’re doing,” Floyd said. “Just trying to get better every day, keep working our guys, keep pushing ourselves and setting up a great game plan. ... Just continue to do that and we’ll be fine.”

Reach the reporter at or follow @paige_burnell on Twitter.   

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