As the great Cody Ulm put it, Arizona State begins the road trip from hell this week with a matcup against No. 13 Oregon State. Three of the Sun Devils' final four games are on the road including two top 25 teams and Arizona. Here is how a reeling ASU team can get a much needed victory tonight in Corvallis.
1. Attack the Quarterback: It was announced earlier this week that Cody Vaz would start in place of Sean Mannion. Vaz, a junior, had attempted 17 passes prior to the start of this season. Vaz has been solid this season, with a 62.3 completion percentage and zero interceptions this season.
However, he remains inexperienced and he has not seen a pass rush like Arizona State's. The Sun Devils need to pressure Vaz and make him uncomfortable in the pocket. ASU needs to show Vaz different looks defensively and confuse him all night.
2. Control the Crowd: Corvallis is not an easy place to win, just ask Wisconsin. Throw in the fact that the game is at night and on national television, and the Oregon State crowd will be rocking. ASU needs to go out and neutralize the crowed early. ASU can do this by taking the lead early, or forcing a turnover on defense.
On defense, Arizona State must limit the big plays and get Oregon State off the field on third down. Offensively, it is important for the Sun Devils to sustain long drives and not commit turnovers.
3. Stay Healthy: Although it is not know for sure, it is likely at Will Sutton, Junior Onyeali and Steffon Martin will all play against Oregon State. It is important for the Sun Devils, especially on defense, to keep their players on the field the entire game.
Once Onyeali and Martin left the game against UCLA, the Bruins offense did whatever they wanted to against the ASU defense. The Arizona State defense is not deep enough to be missing multiple players, especially on the defensive line.
4. Play Smart Football: It is very important that the Sun Devils don't shoot themselves in the foot. As Todd Graham stated in his weekly press conference, that UCLA got at least two touchdowns just from ASU's mental lapses on defense. In close games, every mistake stands out and every play is magnified. One mistake could cost the Sun Devils a much needed victory on the road.
5. Win Special Teams: The punting and kicking games were superb last week against UCLA. Jon Mora Jr. was 3/3 on field goals, and Josh Hubner was fantastic on punts. Field goals will be important against Oregon State, as ASU cannot afford to leave points on the board.
Returns will be key in this game, as field position could play a big role tonight. ASU does not necessarily need a 100-yard KO touchdown, but some nice returns that sets ASU close to the 50 would not be a terrible thing.
For full ASU/Oregon State coverage, head over to House of Sparky.