Facing the Arizona State football team with questions at quarterback is not good timing.
That’s what Oregon State must do as the No. 13 Beavers face the slumping Sun Devils for Dad’s Weekend on Saturday night at Reser Stadium.
While OSU works out its issues with the passing game, Arizona State counters with the top pass defense in the Pacific-12 Conference, ranking third nationally with 148.4 yards a game allowed.
The Sun Devils (5-3, 3-2) get after the passer with one of the best pass rushes in the country. They have 33 quarterback sacks, which has led to 11 interceptions and 31 pass breakups.
“They have a good pass rush and they pressure you a lot with the linebackers and ends,” OSU coach Mike Riley said. “They get a lot of sacks and tackles-for-loss because of their style.”
OSU (6-1, 4-1), however, is coming off a lackluster passing performance against Washington, which played a role in a 20-17 upset loss.
Sean Mannion threw for only 221 yards and had four interceptions. His receivers had an off night with several dropped passes. That led to Cody Vaz relieving him in the fourth quarter.
“We’ll get back to work and I have a good sense these kids will work hard for the next game,” Riley said.
Vaz rallied the team and played well, just as he did in his two starts when Mannion missed two games to recover from minor knee surgery.
The Beavers were listless through the Washington game, but they pulled it together and played better with Vaz in charge.
Riley decided to go with Vaz this week to kick start the offense
“We are going to work even harder this week and take it out on ASU,” cornerback Jordan Poyer said.
Arizona State has lost two in a row to Oregon and UCLA after fast starts mixed in with a loss to Missouri early in the season. There were shootout losses to the Ducks, 43-21, and the Bruins, 45-43.
The Sun Devils can move the ball and are getting better at putting points on the board.
However, they are dealing with injuries, particularly on defense. Star defensive end Will Sutton is day-to-day with a knee injury.
“This is a fast team, both offensive and defensively,” Riley said. “They play fast on defense. Offensive they have good weapons and a good, quality young quarterback.”
Sophomore quarterback Taylor Kelly is a mobile passer and leader for the Sun Devils. His passing efficiency rating of 169.8 leads the conference and ranks fifth nationally.
He’s using several receivers, with tight end Chris Coyle the big target with 38 receptions.
The running game has been solid with an array of runners. So the Beavers have to prepare for a diverse offense.
“Arizona State is a great team,” receiver Brandin Cooks said. “We can’t take any opponent lightly. This conference is too good to take anyone lightly. You can’t look that they lost two in a row, but who the team is. We have to bounce back and work hard and get back in that run we were on.”
The Beavers hope to turn around their fortunes quickly before an extended slide begins.
Many of the little details that were taken care of early in the season were dismissed against the Huskies, players said.
And their own injuries are mounting with receiver Markus Wheaton (concussion), running back Storm Woods (knee) and Poyer (knee) resting early in the week.
“We just have to forget about Washington and move on to ASU,” defensive end Scott Crichton said. “We just have to watch the film and get ready for ASU.”