After two games, ASU’s run defense has given up the fewest yards per contest in the nation — a bit of an improvement from being ranked 82nd in that category last season (out of 130 teams). But their toughest halfback to stop thus far will be thrown at them on Saturday.
Juwan Washington has totaled 362 yards during San Diego State’s first two games. That equates to over 52 percent of the Aztecs’ offense. He has the third-most rushing yards in the country and ran rampant against Stanford during the first half of game one, with over 110 yards. The score was kept close because of it, as the highly ranked Cardinal only led 9-7.
But David Shaw’s squad loaded the box and held Washington to under 50 yards in the second half. Stanford won the game 31-10 and displayed just how to cripple the Aztec offense.
SDSU has yet to score through the air this season. When they defeated ASU last year, Aztec quarterback Christian Chapman (who will miss this Saturday’s game with a knee injury) only tossed for 73 yards. However, eventual first round running back Rashaad Penny rushed for 216 yards (12 yards per carry). Even Washington ran well as a second stringer, with 56 yards of his own.
Penny is now in the NFL and former SDSU defensive coordinator Danny Gonzales has been brilliant in stopping the run game so far in two games at ASU. No visiting back has gained over 24 yards on the ground during the first two weeks of the season. What has worked?
For starters, the “Pat Tillman” spot has been successful, especially against Michigan State. Jalen Harvey, wide receiver turned defender, manned that position for most of the game, leading the way with 10 tackles as he was vital in not allowing MSU’s backs to get into open field.
Furthermore, Gonzales loves to switch out his defenders. With so many players getting snaps, they gave the offensive lines different looks while having rejuvenated legs. Plus, the younger defenders have played admirably to start the year, especially freshman Merlin Robertson who had eight tackles and 1.5 sacks against the Spartans.
The Sun Devils no longer have the advantage of having an away team come and play in 100 degree temperatures. But they have two defensive coaches who have been exposed to Juwan Washington and Saturday’s Aztec quarterback Ryan Agnew. Former SDSU and current ASU defensive backs coach Tony White along with Gonzales should have good insight on the Aztec quarterback’s tendencies considering their defensive unit practiced against Agnew and Chapman daily. That exposure could put the Devils over the edge.
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