TEMPE, Ariz. -- Now it begins.
With their 55-0 win over FCS opponent Sacramento State, Arizona State's season truly begins this Saturday when the 20th ranked Wisconsin Badgers visit Tempe for a showdown on national television.
The ASU offense will face a stiff challenge from the Badger defense, a unit that has yet to surrender a point in their two games, and currently leads the nation in fewest yards-per-game allowed (granted, they have played two FCS teams themselves).
Nevertheless, Wisconsin brings a physical and imposing defense to the desert. I spoke with ASU offensive coordinator Mike Norvell after Sunday's practice to get his thoughts on this match-up, as well as his evaluation of the season opener.
From an overall standpoint, how would you evaluate the execution of the offense against Sacramento State?
Mike Norvell: We had a good focus. We were able to hit some big plays early. It was good seeing playmakers on the perimeter. There are still a lot of things we have to clean up. That's why were are here back to work.
Taylor Kelly obviously had a big game. What were your thoughts on his performance?
MN: I thought it was solid. I thought he missed a few opportunities. We left a few opportunities out there on the field. I didn't think it was his best performance or what he is capable of. I think it was a really good first game. I've got the highest expectations of Taylor of anyone in the country. I know how good he can be. I'm proud of how he played in game one, but I'm looking for marked improvement in game two.
Marion Grice and Deantre Lewis had some big plays, but D.J. Foster was a little quiet.
MN: In the game, we missed a couple of opportunities to D.J. that could have been big, explosive plays. I thought the backs were solid. I thought there were some extra yards and some extra plays that we could have made.
A couple of newcomers had big games in Jaelen Strong and De'Marieya Nelson. Overall, were you pleased with how the newest Sun Devils performed in their debut?
MN: I'm excited. Any time you get a guy who steps onto Sun Devil Stadium for the first time and has success, that's positive to see. We thought those guys would be playmakers for us, and they got it done in game one.
This group of five offensive linemen saw their first action. How do you think they held up?
MN: They had a solid performance. There are definitely some things we need to clean up, but it's a good group. They came back and had a great night tonight in practice in coming off the ball and establishing the run.
What is your early scouting report on the Wisconsin defense?
MN: You look at a team that was the Big Ten champs last year. They've had great success the last three or four years. I don't think they've given up a point on defense this year. They are big. They are strong. They are physical. They have a couple of really, really good players. We're going to have to come out there and play well. I feel good about the match-up, and look forward to our guys competing.
Who will be the key Sun Devil players in this match-up?
MN: Obviously, the quarterback must play well. We got to have big performances from the running backs. We got to be able to establish the run, and making them respect the run game. If we can get them to drop those safeties and get those one-on-ones outside, it's going to open up things for our receivers. As an offense, we have to go out there and take what they give us. It all starts with those five guys up front.
There's been a lot of talk about Taylor Kelly needing to beat a "good" team. How far do you think beating a top 20 team on Saturday will go for him?
MN: Any time you are playing on national TV, people are going to be watching. I just want Taylor to go out and play his game. If he goes out there and takes care of his business, I know there's not another guy in the country I'd rather have lead this offense than him. I'm excited to see him perform on Saturday.
What are are the top keys to leaving Saturday's game with a win?
MN: We have to take care of the football. We can't beat ourselves, and we have to be able to go out there and execute the offense. If we do that, I feel goo about the plan that we are going to have.