The Arizona Wildcats enters the 2020 Territorial Cup riding an 11-game losing streak. It’s difficult to imagine the streak will end on Friday night but stranger things have happened (see 2016 T-Cup).
Kickoff is scheduled for 5 p.m. MST on ESPN. Here’s a first look at the Arizona State Sun Devils:
- 2020 Record: 0-2
- Schedule Results:
Week 1 loss at USC (28-27)
Weeks 2 - 4 no contests due to Covid cancelations
Week 5 loss vs. UCLA (25-18)
- Key Offensive Players: Jayden Daniels (QB), DeaMonte Trayanum (RB), Rachaad White (RB), Henry Hattis (OG)
- Key Defensive Players: Jermayne Lole (DL), Merlin Robertson (LB), Chase Lucas (CB), Evan Fields (Safety)
ASU is coming off a hard fought loss against the Bruins after having not played since Week 1. It’s hard to take a lot from this game but one thing can be said, the Sun Devils agains struggled to take care of the football.
Herm Edwards has had one of the more frustrating seasons compared to any program in the country. There were strong expectations of this team being primed to win the Pac-12 South with USC potentially experiencing a down year.
Those hopes quickly vanished in the opening game as they crumbled late in the fourth quarter and allowed USC to steal the victory. The next three weeks were possibly just as devastating as a Covid-19 outbreak prevented them from competing.
That brings us to last Saturday night when they once again had the lead late in the game only to see it sneak away in the final minutes. As difficult of a five week stretch as this has been, retaining the Territorial Cup could certainly help make it better.
Sophomore quarterback Jayden Daniels has not quite lived up to expectations in year number two. However, given the erratic schedule it’s hard to really fault him for not finding rhythm.
He is completing 55.2 percent of his passes with 359 yards and two touchdowns. The good news is his running game has picked up right where he left it. He has rushed for 117 yards and another touchdown.
DeaMonte Trayanum and Rachaad White have been very solid in the running game, rushing for 192 and 129 yards, respectively.
The Sun Devils rank No. 1 in the Pac-12 in yards per carry (5.8) and No. 3 in rushing yards per game (211.5), concerning for Arizona defense that just allowed Colorado run for over 400 yards.
White is also a threat in the passing gam, currently leading the team with 123 receiving yards.
The rest of the pass catchers have suffered from Daniels’ inability to find a rhythm. The next leading receiver is LV Bunkley-Shelton, who has recorded eight receptions for 71 yards. Frank Darby is the only receiver with a receiving touchdown on the season.
ASU’s defense suffered a blow in the offseason when mastermind Danny Gonzales decided to return to his alma mater as head coach. Antonio Pierce has done a tremendous job on the recruiting trail but it remains to be seen if he and Marvin Lewis are capable of filling Gonzales’ shoes as defensive coordinator.
They still have key pieces like Jermayne Lole and Merlin Robertson in the front seven with Chase Lucas and Evan Fields in the secondary.
However, they have allowed nearly 460 yards per game. Note that this is skewed by USC’s fourth quarter when they allowed 135 total yards in the final two possessions. The point still remains that they give up a lot of yards as shown by the seven 70+ yard drives allowed in their two games.
The outcome will likely largely depend (once again) on Grant Gunnell’s availability for the game. The last two games have shown that Arizona’s defense is capable of keeping things close enough to win. It’s just been an absent passing game that has kept Arizona from pulling it off.
If Gunnell’s unable to play, Will Plummer will be the guy for effectively the third straight game. Although it might not matter who’s behind center if the offensive line continues playing like it has.