Preparing for the unexpected

Thursday marks the end of a long week of preparation for the Sun Devils as the team will depart tomorrow for Salt Lake City to take on the Utah Utes in what will undoubtedly be a pivotal game in the maroon and gold's run for the Pac-12 South title.

The Utes lost their starting junior quarterback, Jordan Wynn last week to a shoulder injury during their loss to Washington and will have to rely their mobile backup Jon Hays. Hays has played in two games so far this season, and completed 10 of 17 passes for 158 yards.

"You just prepare for what they've done," Arizona State head coach Dennis Erickson said. "If they can draw up a whole new offense in only in two days, they're better coaches than I've ever been. I think that they'll put some things in that we haven't seen but they've been practicing the same stuff all camp and Hays has been part of that. So, yeah they'll put some things in but they're not going to change a lot. They may run a little bit of option but it's hard."

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One of the strengths of the Utes lies in their offensive line who will get back from injury right tackle Tony Bergstrom.

"They've got a really good offensive line," Erickson commented. "Their two tackles (John) Cullen and (Tony) Bergstrom are as good as there is in the country. The strength of their football team in my opinion is the offensive front. I know that their goal is to run the football, play action pass and I'm sure that's what they're going to do. Their offensive line is probably the best we'll face all year."

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Early in the matchup against Oregon State, the maroon and gold offense lost one of their key members to their offensive line, center Garth Gerhart. Gerhart suffered an ankle injury and was expected to miss more time than it appears he will.

"It's surprising, he's already moving around," Erickson said of Gerhart. "In a couple days I would guess he could probably back-up, which is what our plan is right now. He's just doing what he needs to do to get ready."

Gerhart was replaced by Kody Koebensky and when the sophomore's number was called, it was as if the maroon and gold offense wasn't phased by the substitution. Quarterback Brock Osweiler has said numerous times how effortless the transition was and commends the talent of his teammate.

"I don't think too much is going to be different," Osweiler said. "It will be Kody's first time having to deal with the silent snap count during the game and things like that but as far as my relationship Kody and how we get the ball back, nothing should be too different."

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Kobensky likely won't be the only inexperienced linemen taking the field of the Sun Devils on Saturday. After the injury of right tackle Aderious Simmons weeks ago against UC Davis, he was temporarily replaced by redshirt freshman Tyler Sulka. Simmons participated in practice this week, but it isn't certain whether or not the senior will participate in Saturday's contest and in the event he isn't able to, Sulka will have the job.

"I'm not concerned at all," Osweiler said. "Kody stepped in early last came and played tremendous. Tyler got some playing time against UC Davis and when he was in there he played great. They're two young kids with a lot of talent and I have confidence in both of them.

"I think anytime you can plan ahead and know during the week that you're the guy instead of getting tossed in the situation, you're going to be mentally prepared and physically. Tyler had a lot of talent and I expect good things out of him."

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So far this season, the Sun Devils have defeated a variety of opponents, ranked and unranked, but has yet win on the road. With a 4-1 record, the only loss the maroon and gold have suffered so far was their loss to Illinois in Champaign but the unit is hopeful that will all change this Saturday.

"I feel like we are," Osweiler admitted. "Obviously we have to go out and play all four quarters and see what happens but I'm very excited for this opportunity and I know the team is because we have struggled on the road and I'm just really looking forward to another opportunity to change that and get a win on the road."

Getting the win in Salt Lake City will not only give the maroon and gold the road win they've been longing for, but also will likely pave a much simpler road to the Pac-12 South title, a fact that the entire unit is aware of.

"I personally haven't looked at it on paper and the coaches have explained the situation that we're going into and by the sounds of it, it's a pretty big football game," Osweiler joked. "I'm going to go out there and I'm really looking forward to the opportunity to win on the road against a very quality opponent and set ourselves up in a good position for the rest of the year in the Pac-12 South."


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