TEMPE — There’s no arguing that running the football has been the forte of Arizona State’s offense this season.
Of ASU’s 4,261 total yards this season, 2,142 have come via the running game — which makes up for over 50% of the Sun Devils’ offense.
The biggest contributor to that success has been senior running back Rachaad White, who accounts for 863 (40.3%) of the team’s total rushing yards on 146 carries (5.9 per attempt) and 15 of its 40 touchdowns on the year.
And in each of the last two games, White has posted exactly 237 all-purpose yards en route two Sun Devil wins and back-to-back Pac-12 Offense Player of the Week awards.
So how can junior quarterback Jayden Daniels and Co. ensure that the offense won’t be one-dimensional against the Oregon State Beavers? Especially with White coming off of 202- and 184-yard rushing performances in the wins over USC and Washington, respectively.
“Obviously we have to make more explosive plays in the passing game,” head coach Herm Edwards said on Monday. “That has to be a part of it.
“But that No. 3, he’s running real hot right now. He’s doing good. He’s making a lot of plays in the passing game and in the running game. We have capable players at receiver, two more capable backs and then Jayden has done a nice job running the ball as well. He’s been part of it.”
Daniels is the second-leading rusher on the team behind White, with 538 yards on 99 carries (5.4 per rush) and five touchdowns.
So it shouldn’t be a surprise to see Oregon State interim defensive coordinator Trent Bray — who was ASU’s linebackers coach from 2010-11 and a grad assist in 2008 — load up the box in order to slow down Arizona State’s rushing attack and force Daniels to throw the ball.
“We definitely need to make some plays in the passing game. We have to do that. That’s important to us,” Edwards said. “And I think if we can get that going, then things become — not simpler — but you got some options.
“You always want options offensively and you always want to make defenders defend the field. You gotta make them defend the whole field, not just in the box. And think if you can spread the ball and throw it some, you make them defend the field. So that’s important.”
Daniels is coming off of one of his least effective games as a passer, as he went 10-for-16 (62.5%) for 90 yards, one touchdown and one interception in the comeback win at Washington. He did, however, have 56 rushing yards on 15 carries (3.7 per attempt) and a score.
With the forecast in Corvallis projecting to be around 40 degrees with little wind and relatively no chance of rain, the playing conditions will be much more advantageous for the Sun Devils’ passing game than it was in a wet and rainy Seattle.
“Neither team kinda threw the ball a whole lot because of the conditions,” Edwards said. “The ball was wet, we saw that. But I also think we had a hot hand running and sometimes when you get a hand running, you just feel, ‘Okay we got to run it.’
“But we have to get some explosive plays in the passing game. Just got to be able to do that. And I think we’ve run it good enough now that we have an opportunity. We just have to make sure we hit when the opportunity presents itself. So that’s kind of where we’re sitting at with that.”