ASU

ASU football offense looking for comeback after rough outing against Utah

Jenna Ortiz
Arizona Republic
Glenn Thomas (offensive coordinator) coaches during ASU spring football practice, March 15, 2022, at Kajikawa Practice fields, Tempe, Arizona.

Glenn Thomas understands the growing pressure of revitalizing Arizona State football’s offense. 

The first-year offensive coordinator so far has led a group that has underwhelmed with an average of 14 points in the last two games.  

But for Thomas, revamping the group’s play doesn’t involve changing the blueprint each time it faces a new opponent. Even if No. 6 USC possesses one of the top offenses in the country, ASU will not be swayed to change the makeup of its offense to match USC’s intensity. 

“I don’t think you can get totally eschewed by that. At the end of the day, you have to do what you do... You have to do what you have to do, whether it be huddle or throw the ball, run the ball, play action, whatever the case may be, and adjust,” Thomas said. 

With a mobile quarterback in Emory Jones, an emerging receiver in Elijhah Badger, and a known playmaker in running back Xazavian Valladay, it would be expected for ASU to do some damage with its possessions.  

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However, ASU struggled last week with only six rushing yards. The lone touchdown came on an 11-yard pass from Jones to tight end Messiah Swinson in the final two minutes of the game. 

With Utah’s physical play and intense defensive line, it was a challenge for ASU to get the ground game going. It especially was hard on Jones who absorbed a lot of contact in the game with five sacks for a loss of 45 yards. Utah’s defense nearly received a targeting call, but the official review did not call it.  

Sep 24, 2022; Tempe, Arizona, USA; ASU quarterback Emory Jones (5) is sacked by Utah defender Cole Bishop (8) at Sun Devil Stadium on Saturday.

Jones’ dual threat capabilities were hampered by Utah’s defensive line, pushing him back to losing 26 yards on 11 attempts. However, the thought of benching him during the game was not an option for interim head coach Shaun Aguano. 

“To me, we'll take responsibility, maybe simplify what he needs to do. Maybe we're too complicated, so we'll take that on as a coaching staff, making sure that he's comfortable with what we're asking him to do, especially against a formidable opponent like Utah," Aguano said. "Maybe we were asking too much in regards to the schematics of the game, but we'll take that. I never had any thought of changing a quarterback. He's my guy. I'm going to roll with him."

Although it looked like the impacts from Saturday bled into practice this week, it was by design that Jones did not throw during the 11-on-11 portion of practice on Tuesday and Wednesday.  

Instead, it was Trenton Bourguet who threw a touchdown pass to Elijhah Badger while working on red zone offense on Wednesday. 

“I think at all positions, the deeper we get into the season, there’s a rotation of elements that we’re trying to get a lot of guys in there and get some reps. That’s part of that. He practiced the rest of the practice,” Thomas said. 

Although the 1-3 start hasn't been ideal for ASU and the morale of the team, veterans like offensive lineman Des Holmes have taken it upon themselves to boost the team's spirits. The graduate transfer from Penn State was a member of the 2020 Penn State team that went 0-5 to start the season, the worst start in Penn State's history.

“I’ve been in a worse situation than this," Holmes said. "As a grown man in life you’re always going to face adversity. We got a lot of guys that love each other, trust each other. When you face adversity in life all you can do is keep pushing and keep moving forward. Throw you hat back on and go to work the next day."

Against USC, the Sun Devils will have to get their rushing attack back to compete with one of the nation’s toughest defenses.  

The offensive line has taken last week’s disappointment and turned it into a chance to hone in more on how it can help the offense get back to running. 

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“One thing we’ve been hitting home as an offensive line, watching film together so we can come to see the defense with one set of eyes. So it’s not just me and Ben (Scott) or whatever. Everybody sees the same thing, has an idea of what to expect and we can be a lot better,” offensive lineman LaDarius Henderson said. 

Pass protection will be a must against USC, a team that leads the country in interceptions with 11 and has returned three of those for a touchdown. USC has 227 total yards on interceptions. 

“They’ve got guys around the ball who could create some problems. They play hard, they’re athletic and big. They’ve got guys up front who are productive in both the run and pass game,” Thomas said. “It’s a nice challenge and our guys are excited for it.” 

Injury report

Several players have returned from injuries this week at practice, a good sign for the defense. 

Defensive lineman Omarr Norman-Lott, who was injured against Eastern Michigan, returned, as well as defensive lineman Gharin Stansbury. Stansbury still has yet to play a game this season, but was a full participant in practice. 

The defensive line was missing B'Ahmad Miller.

The secondary also received a boost with the return of defensive backs Ed Woods, D.J. Taylor, and Ro Torrence.

Notes

Former offensive lineman Shawn Lauvao was a guest at practice. Lauvao, originally from Honolulu, Hawaii, was at ASU from 2005-09 before being drafted by the Cleveland Browns in the third round.

Lauvao played in every game in the last three years of his ASU career, finishing with 33 consecutive starts. 

Reach the reporter at jenna.ortiz@arizonarepublic.com or 602-647-4122. Follow her on Twitter @jennarortiz

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