ASU Football: Keys To Victory Over the Aggies


Saturday afternoon in Houston, Texas, the 16th ranked ASU Sun Devil football team takes on the Aggies of Texas A&M.  While this game is officially being played at a neutral site, there won’t be anything neutral about it.  College Station, the home of Texas A&M is about 80 miles away.

It’s a big game for both programs.  This is not the typical opening week cupcake opponent.  Both teams have a lot to play for and a lot to lose.

Here are some Keys to Victory for the Sun Devils:

1)  Protect Mike Bercovici

ASU quarterback Mike Bercovici is a gunslinger.  No secret there.  But he is effective.  Given enough time to throw, he could pick the Aggie defense apart.  Of course, there is a flip side to that coin; if Berco is pressured, he could make several mistakes. (interceptions)

The offense must protect Bercovici.  And it really doesn’t matter how they do it.  They can keep a tight end in to block.  They can keep a running back in to block.  Or they can keep both.  They could even bring in a second tight end or a second back and have max protection with only two receiver routes.  And of course, they could help Berco by having a solid running game to slow down the pressure.

Offensive coordinator Mike Norvell could also integrate a quick passing game to keep Berco upright.  But whatever they decide to go with, they’ll need to execute it to let their quarterback do what he does best.

2)  Be Sound Tacklers

It may sound strange to talk about, but tackling is obviously very important.  It’s especially important in big games on big stages.  Add the fact that it’s the first game of the year and tackling becomes critical.  In games like this, players tend to want to lay on big hits, but they forget to wrap up the ball carrier.  (Does anybody remember the UCLA game at home last year?)

The captains of this defense need to take the lead by ignoring the fact that they have a national audience and just play sound defense.  And quite frankly, it starts with safety Jordan Simone.  Out of all the returning defenders, Simone is probably the “guiltiest” of all when it comes to tackling by just throwing a shoulder.

With ASU’s attacking/aggressive style of defense, there will be lots of man to man match-ups.  Wrapping up while tackling is critical.

3)  Be Ready for Noise…Serious Noise

As mentioned earlier, this is technically a neutral site, but the domed stadium in Houston will be loud.  Really loud.  And 95% of the noise will be in support of the Aggies.  ASU will have their silent play-calling/checks/adjustments tested immediately.  They’ll have to communicate everything non-verbally and not commit false start penalties.

Usually, teams get a couple of games to rehearse all of this before they need to use it.  Not the case for ASU.  Their signal effort will have to be on point immediately.

4)  Pressure Kyle Allen without Blitzing

This is key number four because of how obvious, yet nearly impossible it probably will be to achieve.  Texas A&M quarterback Kyle Allen is not new.  He started six games for the Aggies last year.  But this is his first year as the named starter.  That can add a little pressure to a young man.  No longer is he the kid coming off the bench with very little expected of him.  He’s now the salty veteran starting QB that is expected to get the job done.  Throw in the fact that Allen is a local kid from Desert Mountain High School in Scottsdale and maybe, just maybe he will be a little jumpy for this game.

ASU will blitz a lot.  They always do.  That’s Todd Graham’s philosophy.  However, if this ASU defense could get pressure on Allen without blitzing, it would be a huge advantage.  Getting Allen to hurry with only 4 rushers would allow other defenders to drop into coverage and perhaps double team the Aggie’s best receivers.

Bottom line:  ASU has to make Kyle Allen uncomfortable.

Most football analysts think this game will be a shootout.  Everybody believes that the Aggies will have an explosive offense.  They think the same about ASU.  So victory may likely fall to the defense and special teams.  Whoever is more sound in those areas will likely win the ball game.  Should be fun to watch.  Stay tuned for analysis after the game.