Defensive coordinators have a lot of schematic and strategic tricks up their sleeves for attempting to deal with the Washington State Cougars’ Air Raid, and it appears Arizona State Sun Devils defensive coordinator Danny Gonzales is relying on a couple of old tropes to try and motivate his group in advance of Saturday’s showdown in Tempe.
When asked about the keys to defending the Cougs, he said:
“Assignments and effort. If they’re flying around and they’re mean and nasty and physical, and they want to try and hurt somebody every time a receiver catches the ball, and we got nine or 10 of them trying to kill that dude, I mean, literally trying to just run him into the ground, then all of a sudden, balls start rolling on the ground, and they don’t want to catch it and run. They want to catch it and cringe, and that’s what the idea is.”
Ah, yes — offensive players in the Air Raid aren’t playing real football, they’re not actually physical and don’t like to get hit, and if you just hit them enough times, they’ll fold up shop and stop trying. Coaches have been trying that for years; I seem to remember former UCLA coach Jim Mora intimating something similar.
It’s probably not a coincidence that Mora’s defenses were noted for their outright dirty play against WSU. And one has to wonder what kind of tactics the Cougs will be facing when the ASU DC says, in the open, that his players “want to try and hurt somebody” and are “trying to kill that dude.” I’m not suggesting Gonzales has told his players to be dirty; I’m merely suggesting that players have their own way of interpreting what coaches say.
Mora’s defenses also were noted for another thing: Being bad at stopping the Air Raid.
Gonzales also said, “I hope they feel like they’ve walked into hell and then I hope our boys come tenacious and we’re violent and nasty and when they leave here, they limp out of this place because we’ve whopped them.”
Now, Gonzales’ strategy might be timely in the sense that Mike Leach just got done calling his team soft after the loss to the Utah Utes. But if I was Gonzales, I think I’d also be wary of expecting a soft team to show up to Tempe: Like any great coach, Leach has made an entire career off of correcting problems, particularly on his side of the ball. Personally, I’d expect WSU to be exceptionally tough on Saturday.
The other tired strategy? Selling the Air Raid to his secondary as an opportunity for interceptions. Here are a pair of quotes from ASU defensive backs:
“We know that’s money, any time the ball is in the air,” redshirt freshman ranger safety Cam Phillips said on Wednesday. “So everybody wants picks.”
“That’s how we get our money, and that’s how we’re going to get to that 20 (-interception goal),” added sophomore ranger safety Aashari Crosswell. “Because I feel like they run the ball too, but they really more of a pass team. So that’s when we got to get our money and we just got to make plays in the secondary.”
It should be noted that, despite having a pretty good defense, ASU has intercepted just two of the 169 passes it has faced. This is also despite his players having what Gonzales referred to as “dirty eyes” — looking too hard for interceptions and losing assignments.
That might help explain how the Colorado Buffaloes — really, the only legitimate offense ASU has faced — threw for 337 yards, three TDs and zero interceptions on just 30 attempts. And I think it’s probably a really great thing for WSU if the Sun Devils are hunting for picks.
In fairness, Gonzales also said a lot of complimentary things about the Cougars, but it’s hard to get around these quotes. I’m never really sure how much impact “bulletin board material” actually has, but this seems like exactly the sort of thing I’d want the players to see before Saturday.
Soccer suffers 2nd conference loss
It was a frustrating night for WSU soccer on Thursday, as Arizona left Pullman with a 1-0 victory despite being outshot by the Cougs 18-11, giving up a dozen corners, and ceding possession most of the night.
When I looked at the stats, I saw that WSU had seven shots on goal but Arizona’s keeper had just four saves. How could that be? This is how:
50' | For the third time a Coug shot is cleared off the line by a Wildcat defender#CougsVsEverybody | #GoCougs pic.twitter.com/THtrOv516t— Washington State Soccer (@WSUCougarSoccer) October 11, 2019
There also were excellent saves:
22' | A brilliant save the only thing keeping the Cougs off the board#CougsVsEverybody | #GoCougs pic.twitter.com/7AeAW198oM— Washington State Soccer (@WSUCougarSoccer) October 11, 2019
Really?!#CougsVsEverybody | #GoCougs pic.twitter.com/wKSXkZt2K5— Washington State Soccer (@WSUCougarSoccer) October 11, 2019
65' | You've got to be kidding#CougsVsEverybody | #GoCougs pic.twitter.com/uzWWYxJTAP— Washington State Soccer (@WSUCougarSoccer) October 11, 2019
On another night, the Cougs might have scored four or five. On this one, they were shut out. Yay soccer! WSU now sits in a three-way tie for fourth place in the Pac-12 with six points; the Cougs welcome last place Arizona State on Sunday at 1 p.m. The game will be live streamed by WSU.
Wildcats out of the bag, into the net – The Daily Evergreen
The weather in Pullman was cold this week but No. 25 Arizona Wildcats brought the heat against No. 15 WSU soccer. “It stings,” said Washington State sophomore defender Mykiaa Minniss.
Kelcey Cavarra’s late goal lifts Arizona past WSU | The Spokesman-Review
Kelcey Cavarra’s goal in the 81st minute lifted 25th-ranked Arizona to a 1-0 victory over No. 15 Washington State in a Pac-12 Conference women’s soccer game at WSU’s Lower Soccer Field on Thursday night.
Snakebitten - Washington State University Athletics
The Cougs controlled the night but the Wildcats took the win, 1-0, in Pullman.
Washington State vs. Arizona State Football Prediction and Preview - Athlon Sports
Our college football experts predict, pick and preview Washington State Cougars (WSU) vs. Arizona State Sun Devils (ASU) game, with kickoff time, TV channel and spread.
Cougars return to ‘Speed D’ – The Daily Evergreen
After dropping their last two games, the Washington State Cougars decided to shake up their defense.
Washington State football facing must-win scenario vs. Arizona State - Fansided
Washington State football is looking to bounce back and knock off the Sun Devils on the road. Will the Cougars have enough to beat ranked Arizona State?
Secondary no longer a secondary concern for Washington State amid recent struggles | The Spokesman-Review
As players and coaches iron out the kinks – a process they hope is at least partially complete by the time Arizona State’s offense takes the field in Tempe this Saturday (12:30 p.m., Pac-12 Networks) – we identify how they materialized and what’s next for WSU’s beleaguered secondary.
Two-minute drill: Keys to victory for Washington State against No. 18 Arizona State | The Spokesman-Review
The keys to a potential victory for Washington State against Arizona State Saturday at Sun Devils Stadium.
'Everybody wants picks': ASU secondary eager for Cougars' test
ASU hopes to create more interception opportunities against Washington State
Gordon Added to 2019 Maxwell Award Watch List - Washington State University Athletics
The Maxwell Award is present to America’s most outstanding college football player.
Maxwell Award adds Washington State quarterback Anthony Gordon to watch list | The Spokesman-Review
Anthony Gordon, the only quarterback at the FBS level with over 2,000 passing yards and one of just three with at least 20 passing touchdowns, was added to the Maxwell Award watch list Thursday.
Pac-12 picks: Washington schools make their last stand
The Huskies and Cougars are at the bottom of the North and in danger of falling three games back of Oregon in the loss column. And both have struggled in their assigned stadiums this week.
‘Never seen that before’ | Sports | lmtribune.com
PULLMAN — Like the football team they support, certain tailgaters at Washington State know how to use space to their advantage. Six or seven of them will arrange their recreational
Examining ASU's defensive depth chart for Washington State
How the Sun Devils shape up for Saturday afternoon
After backing up 2 NFL QBs, Anthony Gordon makes his mark at Washington State | theScore.com
Trending News & Rumors for Football, Basketball, Baseball, Hockey, Soccer & More
ASU Football: Gonzales prepared for the chess match with Leach - House of Sparky
Going against one of the best offensive minds.
Cougars Set to Hit The Beach - Washington State University Athletics
WSU tennis is playing second fall tournament in as many weeks.