TEMPE — For the first time in his Arizona State career, Sun Devils head coach Herm Edwards is going into the second week of Pac-12 play coming off of a win in the conference opener.
Following last week’s 35-13 win over the Colorado Buffaloes, ASU (3-1; 1-0 Pac-12) now heads to Pasadena to take on the No. 20 UCLA Bruins (3-1; 1-0) at the Rose Bowl. Since Edwards and Chip Kelly both took over as head coaches of their respective schools in 2018, the latter has won two of the last three games between the two.
And with Saturday’s contest marking the fourth meeting, but the first matchup in which UCLA is ranked, Edwards knows his defense will have its hands full trying to slow down the Bruins.
“Well a lot of eye candy,” Edwards said Monday of Kelly’s offense. “You have to have clean eyes. If you play with dirty eyes, it turns out being a dirty play — a bad play on your part.
“You have to play with clean eyes, a lot of eye candy, a lot of motions, a lot of shifts. They go fast when they feel like they have you off-balance. They’ll run right back up to the line, won’t allow you to substitute and they go again.”
Kelly has also always been an aggressive coach who is willing to go for it on fourth down. In fact, UCLA has converted four consecutive fourth-down conversions against ASU dating back to 2019, while the Sun Devils haven’t vs. the Bruins since 2018.
A large part of that confidence and success for Kelly is senior quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson, who is 2-0 in his career against Arizona State and QB Jayden Daniels. In those two games, the UCLA QB is 34-of-47 (72.3%) for 368 yards and three touchdown passes while rushing 22 times for 64 yards (2.9 per carry) and one score.
“I don’t know if you stop him. I think you try to contain him,” Edwards said. “No one is going to stop him. Great athlete — you’re not going to stop him. That word is kind of overused.
“You want to stop him — you’re not going to stop the guy. You can try to contain him and hold him to a minimum. You have to understand your rush lanes.”
The Sun Devils defensive line will need to play a disciplined game in order to keep Thompson-Robinson from escaping the pocket and running for big chunks of yards. Gap integrity and staying in rush lanes will be paramount in practice this week for ASU.
And luckily for Arizona State, Daniels will be able to give defensive coordinator Antonio Pierce and Co. a pretty good look, as the dual-threat QB has hurt opposing teams with his legs too.
“Our quarterback does the same thing. You run past him upfield and you open windows for the guy to escape,” Edwards said. “If you watch the last couple times that quarterbacks ran on us, look at the rush lanes. Very obvious: you run past the quarterback, you have a problem. …
“A lot of teams when they go empty, you empty out the backfield, all of a sudden if you don’t have a person that’s accounting for the quarterback, you get the quarterback draw. It happened to us. We get it one time against BYU and the next time we do it right and the quarterback gets hit. So you have to be aware of all those things.”
Edwards said that running back DeaMonte “Chip” Trayanum, corner back Chase Lucas and wide receiver Bryan Thompson are “going to play” after injuries held them out of Saturday’s game against Colorado.
Trayanum has missed the Sun Devils’ last three games following an ankle sprain in the 41-14 win over Southern Utah on Sept. 2.