Q&A with Coach Paul Randolph

Following a dominating win at home against Utah, the Arizona State Sun Devils look to win their first game on the road this season as they prepare to play against Cal. Defensive Coordinator Paul Randolph talked with Devils Digest about the keys to stopping the Cal Bear's offense, as well as the performance of some of his players this far in the season.

What will be the big challenges that the Cal offense will present?

Paul Randolph: "The run, they have a very good quarterback and wide receiver combination, but the run is always the most important. Their offense goes as their run game goes. For us we have to stop the run and do it well. They rushed the ball against quality defenses this year such as Ohio State. We need to stop the run in order to contain Cal this week."

How do you plan to stop the run?

Paul Randolph: "We will need to play well up front. We will need to maintain our gaps, [as] Cal does a great job at trying to stretch your defensive line. Their offensive line is very good and is coached extremely well. They play hard and always maintain a low pad level. For us we need to match that physicality in the trenches. We need to get downhill and make sure we seal the gaps and it's an airtight fit."

How impressed have you been with the defensive line?

Paul Randolph: "When we talk about defensive line, what we strive for is to make one third of all the plays on defense. Since the defensive line is one third of the defense, the others being the secondary and linebackers, they need to make one third of the plays. Everybody needs to do their part. Our defensive lineman are working their tails off, they understand their assignments and their roles during plays. For me that's the biggest thing.

"Fundamentally we are improving every day and that is something that we will continue to improve upon. As far as making plays, you have Will Sutton who is extremely productive every week. In the last couple weeks, Jaxon Hood and Mike Pennel have really stepped up and are making more plays. Then against Utah, Davon Coleman and Junior Onyeali stepped up and made explosive plays to get to the ball. I think the guys are playing better because they are getting more comfortable."

Coming off the loss to Missouri, how critical was it to get off to a fast start defensively against Utah?

Paul Randolph: "For us we have to start fast, we want to start fast every game. We have been doing a good job of that at home, but now we have to start fast on the road. Against Missouri our players went onto the field feeling like they were going to win without having to match the intensity of the players and the fans. I tell the guys that they need to start fast and finish strong. We have been doing a good job of both lately, but we need to improve. We need to harness our energy and our emotion to help us start fast,"

How big of an accomplishment has it been to "finish strong" and not allow a point in the 4th quarter this year?

Paul Randolph: "I think the guys are maintaining their focus. When you are focused you tend to keep all the plays in front of you, most big offensive plays happen because the defense wasn't focused. Our players have a purpose for what they are doing. They are maintaining their focus on their job. No matter if we are losing or winning our guys are staying focused on doing their job and being 1/11th of the defense. They are committed to being disciplined and playing the full sixty minutes of the game. Therefore the result has been that we have been playing extremely well in the 4th quarter."

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