Arizona State’s energy up with Norvell on sidelines
TEMPE, Ariz. — Offensive coordinator Mike Norvell spent the first four games of the season calling plays from the booth after spending all of last season on the sideline. When the offense struggled and the team stumbled to a 2-2 record, many questioned the move and its effect on the team.
In losses to Texas A&M and USC the Sun Devils scored 17 and 14 points, their lowest output since scoring 14 in the 2013 Pac-12 Championship game.
Against UCLA in the Rose Bowl, Norvell made his return to the sidelines and ASU had its most productive day of the year, scoring a season-high 38 points.
"I think our energy was up on offense a little bit, and I thought our communication was a little better — player to coach," said wide receiver D.J. Foster, who caught four passes for 57 yards."I thought he was great down there and it was definitely better having him down there."
SPECIAL PLAYS: Punter Matt Haack played a major role in the game on Sunday with his eight punts that averaged 43.1 yards, including a season-best punt of 63 yards that was downed at the UCLA 12-yard line. Haack was named the Ray Guy Award Player of the Week after the performance.
Special teams have been inconsistent at best for the Sun Devils in recent years, and the unit wasn’t perfect on Saturday. Kicker Zane Gonzalez made two of his three field goals, with the miss coming from 44 yards out. The Sun Devils’ special teams still played a major role in ASU’s win on the road against the Bruins.
ASU head coach Todd Graham has acknowledged his team’s struggles with special teams in the past but after practice Tuesday gave an affirmation to their play in that area, yelling "That special teams was big," in regards to the UCLA game.
TACKLING THE PROBLEM: The Sun Devils had a lot of problems tackling against USC, 26 and several of those plays resulted in long scores for the Trojans. The tackling against the Bruins, and linebacker Salamo Fiso and safety Jordan Simone are currently first and second in the nation in solo tackles.
"I do think we’re tackling better, even though we missed some tackles," Graham said.
Graham has been impressed with the play of Fiso through five games.
"He’s having the best year he’s had here," he said. "I think he’s having an All-Pac-12 level year even though we’re only two games into the conference."
RIDING THE COASTER: It’s been an up and down season to say the least for the Sun Devils. The team responded well after a loss at home against the Trojans with one of the biggest wins of the Graham era Saturday. The expectations were off the team last Saturday, but after the win, the presumption will be for them to hold serve again at home against Colorado.
Foster, one of the Sun Devils’ senior leaders, believes the struggles they have gone through will prepare them for new expectations.
"We’ve learned a lot of lessons, we’ve learned a lot about our team so far," Foster said. "I think a lot of younger guys understand that you just just gotta stay in the middle, you can’t be too high or too low."
RESPECTING YOUR OPPONENT: ASU’s opponent this week is the 3-2 Colorado Buffaloes, who are coming off a 41-24 loss to Oregon. Graham talked about the respect he has for Colorado’s head coach, Mike MacIntyre, calling him "one of the best football coaches I’ve been around."
Graham praised the way that MacIntyre’s players play for him.
"The character that they show, and the toughness that they show. They were right there with Oregon," he said. "And if it not for the turnovers, they could’ve been ahead and possibly won the game."
- Arizona State Sun Devils
- D.J. Foster
- FOX Sports Arizona
- FOX Sports Arizona - ASU Sun Devils
- Jordan Simone
- Matt Haack
- Salamo Fiso
- Zane Gonzalez