It’s Arizona State week, and after a brief sabbatical and an emotional win over Oregon, we are back with another Q&A with Andrew Lwowski of House of Sparky, SB Nation’s Arizona State blog!
MS: This is the first year under new head coach Kenny Dillingham, who is widely seen as an offensive guru, thanks to a stellar season at Oregon as OC last year. What differences has he brought to the program and what is the general vibe around him?
AL: Kenny Dillingham has done wonders for the Sun Devils’ offense – despite the lack of wins. When Dillingham took over play calling duties from Beau Baldwin, the pre-snap movement, motions and creativity has increased each week. Dillingham has used running back Cam Skattebo is a number of different ways (wildcat, pooch punt, and he’s even thrown passes). It is hard to tell all that Dillingham and the offense is fully capable given the injuries to the OL and Rashada. He has brought energy and a sense of hope to the valley. His drive to win in contagious, and while winning and finding success in a new program – especially one given all that has occurred since his hiring – takes time, Dillingham should and needs support to build this program.
MS: At quarterback, the Sun Devils’ depth has taken a hit, with Jaden Rashada and Drew Pyne both out with injury. That leaves Trenton Bourguet, the third stringer who threw 3 touchdowns against the Huskies last year. What does he bring to the table and what do Husky fans need to watch out for?
AL: Trenton Bourguet brings veteran experience and leadership. He’s a great game manager and can do enough to win you the game, citing back to last year’s win over Washington. His experience in extending plays can help the Sun Devils pick up chunk plays, which they will likely need to have any chance. That is one thing Dillingham was harping on through the bye, so we will see what the offense has cooked up since their last game. However, under pressure, Bourguet can make forced errors. He plays relatively smart, but pressure and putting him behind the sticks could really disrupt the rhythm.
MS: The run game is led by Cameron Skattebo, who is averaging just under 4 yards per carry, with 392 yards and 3 touchdowns on the year, and DeCarlos Brooks, who is averaging 4.3 yards per carry. What do you like about them, and the run game as a whole?
AL: Cam Skattebo has been the ignition to the offense, which at times has become stagnant. He is a Swiss Army knife, having the ability to pass, punt and run in different formations. Skat is a tough, physical runner that doesn’t shy away from contact and has an amazing ability to create plays out of nothing. Against USC, Skat caught pass off balance and took a hit from a defender well short of the sticks, kept his balance and rolled off another, taking it for a 52-yard touchdown on fourth and 7. While both backs are good, and a solid one-two punch, it’s hard to have steady run game with a diminished OL. Heading into the bye week, ASU was down 6 of its 8 linemen. The run game is important to ASU’s passing game, however. So, establishing it early against the Husky’s will be crucial.
MS: Elijah Badger leads this receiving corps with 422 yards and 2 scores. What do you think about him, and who are the other weapons that the Sun Devils have in the pass game?
AL: Elijhah Badger is threat wherever he is lined up, and has just shy of double the receptions as the next receiver. Earlier in the year, Jaden Rashada and Badger hooked up for a few deep passes, which ASU has struggled to find since. He demands attention from the opposing teams secondary, which in return allows the rest of the corps to create plays. The receivers work by committee as well. Troy Omeire had the game-tying score late against Colorado, Melquan Stovall had made big pick-ups, and Skat has been excellent out of the backfield. Again, it has been hard to see steady results given the quarterback situation.
MS: How would you rate ASU’s defense and who are the players that Husky fans should look out for?
AL: ASU’s defense is extremely underrated and while it lacks in producing turnovers, the pressure created by the defensive line and edge rushers requires constant attention. Linebacker BJ Green and Prince Dorbah have been impactful in the backfield for ASU, accounting for 10 of ASU’s 18 total sacks. Dorbah leads the team with six, Green has second most with four. The rush by the interior line creates opportunities for the edge rushers, but it is by committee. ASU has just one turnover all season, which is unfortunate given all the opportunities. Veteran defensive back Jordan Clark is another strong presence in the backfield. He takes after his father and former Steelers’ DB, Ryan Clark. While having playmakers along the D-Line, it will be a mighty task to limit Penix Jr.
MS: It is time for a score prediction! What will the score be in this game, which could be the last ever meeting between the two squads before they switch conferences?
AL: Arizona State was near five-touchdown underdogs to then-No.5 USC weeks ago, but USC has since shown its not top-10 caliber while ASU also proved it can hang around. However, Washington is a different animal with the way Penix Jr. is playing and the consistency in the team this season – nodding to its victory last week over the Ducks. Arizona State had the bye week to get healthy and plan for Washington, but playing in Washington, in the cold, and trying to contain Penix Jr. doesn’t seem promising. ASU currently sits at 28.5 underdogs, so final score: 46-20 Washington.
Thank you Andrew! For my responses to his questions, be sure to check out House of Sparky!