Another week, another opponent Q&A - this time Brady Vernon of House Of Sparky sat down with us to give the lowdown on the Sun Devils’ season thus far.
1. First things first – Herm Edwards is actually kind of okay at this college thing! I’m always glad to see the Pac-12 pick up another eccentric & quotable head coach, but have to admit I picked ASU to be a dumpster fire this year and possibly for the duration of his tenure. There were just too many red flags, at least to a dumb blog writer who has no idea what he’s talking about.
So what’s been Herm’s recipe for success? Do ASU fans feel pretty comfortable with him at the helm going forward?
House Of Sparky: Herm has made this methodical identity of running the ball and working the clock. ASU doesn’t have a ton of possessions this season because of how they establish the run. All four of their losses are by seven points, there’s a reason for that. Herm also created a very good defensive staff led by coordinator Danny Gonzales from San Diego State and linebacker coach Antonio Pierce, who has helped with recruiting. A lot of freshman have made plays this season on that defense.
2. The Sun Devils have been in a ton of close games this year, win or lose. Is there something in their style of play or roster that tends to equalize contests?
It’s what I said earlier in how ASU tries to play the game low possessions trying to run out the clock, at first they weren’t winning time of possession but are getting more now. The drive to close it out against UCLA last week lasted over eight minutes. They don’t force a ton of turnovers, but don’t give the ball up either, it’s just how they play that sets up close games.
3. Who’s a Sun Devils player for us Oregon fans to watch on offense, and what should we look for? Not necessarily your most prolific player, i.e. You-Know-Who - let’s hear about guys that provide something unique for your team or are otherwise instructive.
I believe this one might turn into a shootout, with that being said I’ll go with wide receiver Frank Darby, he’s the one that will stretch the field for ASU to open other plays up. He’ll also make plenty of plays on deep plays because he’s tremendous at tracking the ball and placing his feet where they need to be toward the sideline.
4. And how about one on defense?
Usually I’d say freshman standout linebacker Merlin Robertson, but after a targeting call last Saturday he’ll miss half the game against the Ducks. Instead I’ll say redshirt freshman linebacker Tyler Johnson, whose play has started to pick up of late. His ability to get to Justin Herbert might be the difference in getting a stop on a drive in a game where I think there will be few of.
5. What’s an advantage ASU might be able to exploit against Oregon this Saturday?
Manny Wilkins has really gotten rolling the past few weeks, and the Oregon passing defense isn’t a stout item. With N’Keal Harry most likely going to do N’Keal Harry things, he’ll most likely have a big game. He also opens up more plays for Darby, Kyle Williams and Brandon Aiyuk, and their different skill sets they possess.
6. What’s a weakness or disadvantage specific to this matchup that you guys are worried about?
The passing defense over the middle of the field seems like it’s going to be an issue for the Sun Devils. Caleb Wilson had a huge day last week against the Sun Devils, with Robertson out it’s going to be an even better issue. I wouldn’t be shocked if Dillon Mitchell had a simple slant route go for a big play because of that.
7. And the obligatory predictions - let’s do the final score, plus one other key team or player stat. What say you?
ASU 38-31, I think ASU is motivated as they’ll ever be, playing probably the best they have this season. It’s the opposite for Oregon, thus why I think the Sun Devils come out on top. It’s a huge game for the Sun Devils and Harry shines the brightest in the spotlight, let’s say he goes for 150 yard and a pair of touchdowns on Saturday.
Thanks for your time, Brady!
Ed. note: If any ATQers want to chat with some Sun Devils fans about the game, my Q&A replies for House of Sparky are over here.