WAC-PAC Matchup: Round 2

Dirk Koetter and the Arizona State Sun Devils will look to prove that the right decision was made regarding the quarterback controversy in the pre-season as they take on the Wolfpack from University of Nevada, Reno.

ASU had temporary troubles with their opening day opponent, the Lumberjacks of Northern Arizona University, before eventually dispatching them thanks to a 35-yard interception return on the opening play of the 4th quarter. NAU hung around the entire game up until that point, keeping it tied at 14-14 through the 3rd quarter. NAU quarterback, Jason Murietta completed 15 / 20 passes for 259 yards and two touchdowns against the Sun Devil defense which ranked 114th in the nation last season. The surprise story of the first week game featuring the two Arizona schools was NAU’s junior wide receiver, Alex Watson. Watson, a resident of Inglewood, Calif., was able to reel in 11 of Murietta’s 15 completed passes for a total of 206 yards, and two touchdowns. Even more impressive is he accumulated 140 yards on only two receptions, an 80-yard TD, and a 60-yard TD.

On the other side of the field, the ASU Sun Devils kept much of their high powered offense in neutral so as not to reveal too much in a game against a 1-AA opponent. ASU, normally known for its lack of a running game, and a high-flying aerial assault, only threw the ball 24 times (17 completed by sophomore QB, Rudy Carpenter) and saw each of the four running backs (Keegan Herring, Shaun DeWitty, Ryan Torain, Dmitri Nance) they put in the game score a touchdown. So despite a lackluster offensive output against an inferior opponent, the Sun Devils will look to rebound against a stronger team, in the Wolfpack of Nevada.

Much was made following the narrow win against NAU about their unorthodox defense, which they are one of the only colleges in the nation to employ. Their 3-3-5 defense, using three defensive linemen, three linebackers, and five defensive backs, gave Carpenter, and the Sun Devil coaching staff fits all night long. This week, another unorthodox formation will look to confuse the Sun Devils as Nevada brings in their self-termed “Pistol Offense” to Sun Devil Stadium. The “pistol” acquired the name because it is a mini-shotgun formation, with the quarterback standing 4-yards behind the line of scrimmage and a running back behind him, allowing many different looks at running plays.

The stereotypical “college playcalling” system will be in effect for Nevada this Saturday when the option attack is alive and well. Due to the “pistol” offense’s odd looks in the backfield, Nevada’s senior quarterback, Jeff Rowe, is able to run an efficient option attack while also maintaining the ability to keep the pass rush at bay and make things happen in the passing game. In the first game of the season for the Wolfpack, a loss at the hands of the Fresno State Bulldogs, Rowe passed for 183 yards and two touchdowns while also using his legs to gain an additional 24 yards on 9 carries.

In order to move to 2-0 on the season, Arizona State will have to be able to continue their defensive prowess, which sees them ranked #1 in the nation in the sacks column with 9. The winner of this game should be painfully obvious by the end of the first quarter. Either Arizona State will be able to have their way in the passing game thus, scoring way too many points for the Wolfpack to be able to run their way back from, or, Nevada will be able to run the option time and time again and win the battle of time possession. Whichever way this ballgame turns out, it is sure to be an entertaining WAC-PAC matchup.

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