By: Charles Wulf
The Arizona State Sun Devils hit the road this weekend as they travel to Albuquerque to take on New Mexico. On the road for the first time, this young defense will be tested against an unfamiliar scheme. New Mexico isn’t ASU’s first big challenge, but the game will be a good test for Graham’s young defensive unit.
The Lobos aren’t your standard opponent. They run the triple option which could give the Devils some trouble. The option is not an easy offense to stop, especially with a short week to prepare.
“It’s a big time challenge because it’s just so different.” Graham said after practice Wednesday, “It’s going to be third down and four, third down and five, third down and six, and they’re still going to be running their base offense.”
The triple option is a very unique offense that is seldom seen in the modern age of college football. It is usually employed by smaller schools or teams with lesser skill because it gives them a better chance of competing against the big boys.
“The triple option is the great equalizer of athletic ability and it can really really make you look bad,” Graham said, “All you gotta do is leave one guy uncovered. You’ve got to play assignment football.”
Despite the threat, Graham still wants his defense to attack and play as aggressive as they usually do and it all starts with linebacker, Salamo Fiso. Last year as a freshman, Fiso worked his way past senior Steffon Martin into the starting lineup and was a solid complementary player on defense. This year Fiso has taken the next step and become the leader of the inexperienced defense.
During his press conference on Monday, Graham called Fiso the commander of the defense, “He’s the guy that’s making all the checks and doing all the audibles and stuff like that.”
Along with calling defensive plays and audibles, Fiso will be responsible for mentoring and coaching the new starters on the defense while on the field. “It’s just leading by example,” Fiso said after practice. The Sun Devils have struggled to stop the run the last two seasons and the Lobos present a solid challenge this weekend.
The Sun Devils should win this game easily. New Mexico doesn’t have the athletes to keep up with ASU’s offense. The only question going into this game is how ready is this defense to face teams like UCLA, Notre Dame, and USC. With only a few weeks before their home matchup against the Bruins on September 25, Graham, Fiso and the Sun Devil defense will have to work out the kinks against the Lobos this weekend.