Improved Discipline and Aggression For ASU

Arizona State seemed lack to a certain level of discipline under head coach Dennis Erickson.

EUGENE, Ore,- The Sun Devils (5-1, 2-1) racked up 80 or more penalty yards in each of the last three match-ups with Oregon, including 95 yards a year ago. In fact, the Sun Devils finished with the most penalty yards in the conference in each of the past three seasons.

That, however, looks to be a thing of the past, as through six games this season Arizona State is first in the Pac-12 in penalties yardage, averaging nearly 50 less yards per game.

Whether discipline truly was the foundation for those problems or something else, first-year head coach Todd Graham and defensive coordinator Paul Randolph certainly share some of the credit.

Improved discipline doesn't necessarily mean a more conservative approach. In fact the Sun Devils lead the league in sacks with 26 this season, over four per contest.

Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota attributes a lot of that to the varying edge pressures he's seen on tape, while head coach Chip Kelly highlighted defensive tackle Will Sutton as a key cog. Sutton leads the conference with 8.5 sacks this season.

"They generate that pressure with a 3-man rush," Kelly said. "They've got some great linemen, starting with Sutton up front."

Despite Sutton's dominance this season, Kelly was quick to follow up that linebacker Brandon Magee had been everywhere all season, Carl Bradford was just as aggressive as Sutton and the secondary had been excellent all season.

"They're more than one player on that defense, that's what makes Arizona State so good," Kelly said. "We've got to be aware of where all 11 guys are."

"They literally have brought every defender [on blitzes]," offensive coordinator Mark Helfirch said of the Sun Devils aggressive nature. "It's a tremendous challenge."

That challenge will fall on Mariota's shoulders and according to Helfrich ball security will be a focal point Thursday.

"He needs to realize that every guy on that defense is trying to rip his head off and the ball out on every single play," he said. "The guys playing DT maybe pursue as fast as corner in high school."

Because of the quantity and variety of blitzes, the Sun Devils play a lot of man-coverage in the secondary, Kelly said.

Helfrich summed up the challenge this way.

"They're kind of similar, but completely different from every defense we've played."

What that will mean for the Ducks will be answered Thursday.


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