TEMPE, Ariz. -- The Arizona State defense had their way with an overmatched Colorado offense, but that will not be the case this Saturday when the Washington Huskies come to town.
Washington features a very potent offense, currently ranked 8th nationally with an average of 538 yards-per-game. The Husky attack is lead by the nation's leading rusher, Bishop Sankey, and veteran quarterback Keith Price. This is a team that can put points on the board in a variety of ways.
Game planning a way to stop them falls onto the shoulders of ASU defensive coordinator Paul Randolph, so I asked him about the tough task ahead, as well as his impression of his unit's performance over the first half of the season.
What were your major takeaways from the defense's performance against Colorado?
Paul Randolph: "Trying to get our guys to execute was the biggest thing. Played fast, played with some emotion and some enthusiasm. I thought we started fast and played well early. But we still have to tackle better. We work on that every single day. We still have to eliminate a few mistakes. I thought the guys played extremely hard and we finished strong."
How do you feel the pass rush has progressed over the last few weeks?
PR: "It's been slowly building. Now, we're finally hitting our stride. Against Colorado, we got after the quarterback a lot. We didn't get all the sacks, but we got a lot of hits and a lot of pressures on him, so I think it's coming. I think the guys are loosening up now and hitting their stride in the pass rush part of our system, and I think it showed against Colorado."
While the numbers aren't what they were, how do you feel Will Sutton stacks up as a player against what he was a year ago?
PR: "I think Will is progressing right along. The numbers aren't there for whatever reason, but I think he's playing hard. He's playing dang near every snap. He's still being disruptive, and taking on double teams when need be, and he's winning single blocks when he needs to. I think his numbers will start to pick up here as we progress through the rest of the season."
Coach Graham praised Davon Coleman as one of the standouts of the season. What do you feel has keyed his turnaround?
PR: "I think he is finally getting comfortable in our system. He knows what we want and expect from him. He's practicing better than he has ever practiced, and it's showing on game. I attribute it to his work ethic in practice. He's practicing harder, practicing better, and with more attention to detail, and he's playing that way."
We're halfway through the regular season, so who are some players that have exceeded your preseason expectations thus far?
PR: "No doubt, Salamo Fiso over the last couple of games. We finally got his starting legs under him against Colorado. He started USC. He started Notre Dame, and we subbed him a little bit. This game against Colorado, he played well. He's coming along. Lloyd Carrington played better in the Colorado game. Anthony Jones has played extremely well moving inside the box being a Will linebacker. I think those guys are doing a phenomenal job. Our safety Damarious (Randall) did a wonderful job. He's getting better every single day. A lot of the guys are first-time players. Anthony Jones starting. Salamo starting. Damarious starting. It's just a matter of them getting playing time and them getting better with each rep."
What are some areas you'd like to see the defense improve upon over these final six games?
PR: "No doubt, stopping the run. It's still the first and foremost. Then it's eliminate the big plays against. Then it's our pursuit. I want them to run harder, chase the ball. Run to the ball like your hair is on fire. I like to see that, that intensity, that purpose. Eliminate the critical errors. But more than anything, tackle and run to the football."
What will be the keys to stopping Washington running back Bishop Sankey?
PR: "Trying to get a body on him. He's a really good running back. He does a good job of finding the gaps. They are more of a zone team, so it's up to him to find the crease. He's done a really good job of finding that this season. Our job is to fill those creases up, then we need to put pads on him and need to tackle firm and get him on the ground."
Keith Price is a veteran and talented quarterback. How will you gameplan to stop the Husky passing attack?
PR: "I don't know if you can shut it down. We want to control it. Stop the run, control the pass. The biggest thing with him is trying to keep him from scrambling. He does a good job moving around in the pocket extending plays. He also has a plethora of talent around him. The tight end, the receivers. I think he has a really good group, plus Sankey out of the backfield. Our biggest thing is to show them a lot, and make him find out what we're in and what we're doing."