Coming off big game, ASU run game faces stingy Utah defense

For years, Arizona State’s football program has been defined by skilled passers who set the tone for the offense. Jake Plummer, Brock Osweiler, Taylor Kelly, Mike Bercovici and other ASU quarterbacks have been some of the most memorable Sun Devils in recent memory.
But this year, the offense has been most successful at the running back position. In particular, Eno Benjamin.
Through eight games, the sophomore running back has rushed for 938 yards and nine touchdowns. He was once again a force in ASU’s road win over USC last Saturday.
“He gets better as the game goes on,” ASU offensive coordinator Rob Likens said. “The more we run the football, we’re just going to keep on doing it.”
Benjamin hit paydirt twice against the Trojans and ran for 185 yards in the process. While Benjamin has been explosive in the backfield this entire season, Likens also credited the line for his success against USC.
“We didn’t know we’d be able to run it that well, and that’s a testament to our o-line,” Likens said. “(They) played really hard. That whole front set the tone for the ball game.”
The Sun Devils are back to .500 after the win, but this week, they face what Likens called the best team in the Pac-12: Utah. Ever since losing their first two Pac-12 games, the Utes have been as hot as they come, winning four in a row. Because of the winning streak, Utah has soared in the rankings and is now No. 16 in the AP Poll.
Perhaps the most bruising unit for the Utes is the front six of their 4-2-5 defense. Utah leads the Pac-12 in rushing yards allowed per game with 81.1, which is also third in the nation.
“We gotta sustain our blocks,” Likens said. “We just gotta trade blows. We gotta be patient. It’s going to be one-yard gain, and then maybe a three-yard gain, and then maybe a one again, and then maybe a seven-yarder.
Likens also said the offensive strategy could change, depending on the score.
“It’ll come down to what the score looks like as well,” Likens said. “If it’s even or we’re up, we’re going to keep on doing it. If we get down, we gotta make the decision: are we just going to sit here and run into that, or are we going to throw it?”
According to Likens, offensive lineman Alex Losoya was one of a few blockers up front who played played his best game of the season against the Trojans. Even though Utah’s front is among the best in college football, Losoya said the preparation hasn’t changed this week.
“I think we’re just doing what we’ve been doing every week,” Losoya said. “Just sticking to blocks, just finishing and letting Eno do what he does.”


Thursday January 01, 1970