ASU gets ready for Cal Poly in Tempe, Arizona on 9/8/15. Photo by Blake Benard.
Following their disappointing loss to Texas A&M last weekend, the Arizona State Sun Devils look to get back on track against Cal Poly Mustangs in their home opener at Sun Devil Stadium. Kick off slated for 8pm.
Arizona State practices this past week have been focused and although Cal Poly should be a walk in the park for the massively talented Devils, let’s take a look at the Mustangs and see what they have to offer.
The Mustangs are in the Big Sky Conference, the same conference that Northern Arizona University plays in, and are coming off a dramatic 20-19 win over the Number 8 Montana Grizzlies. To put that in perspective, Montana has been to the FCS National Championship five times since 2000, including winning it in 2001 and being in the game as recently as 2009. While this is the first time Cal Poly is facing an active member of the Pac-12 Conference, don’t simply write off the by the no-name Mustangs. They have unreal amounts of senior playmakers incorporated into their defense and triple option offense. Here’s the “no-names” that you need to be on the lookout for in tonights matchup.
TU’UTA INOKE – Senior, Middle Linebacker
For the last two seasons, Inoke was a backup to middle linebacker Nick Dzubnar who is now playing for the San Diego Chargers. Inoke has played in 35 games and now the senior is taking over the defense and moving to inside linebacker, replacing the departed Dzubnar. While he has big shoes to fill, he broke out against Montana showing his potential with a record-high 16 tackles with one for a loss and also forced two fumbles. His performance earned him FCS National Defensive Player of the Week and the Big Sky Player of the Week honors from College Sports Madness. Especially with the rough outing from Arizona State’s offensive line against A&M this is a matchup to watch.
CHRIS BROWN – Senior Quarterback
Obviously for any game the quarterback is going to be a key factor, but Brown brings a even more important aspect to this game: the Mustangs triple-option offense. The Mustangs had two players rush for over 100 yards against Montana; one of those was Brown (his eight career 100+ rushing game). Few teams run the triple-option offense but it can be extremely effective. It gives the quarterback three different options as to who will run the ball and it should be a nice test for the Arizona State defense. We saw the damage that the mobile tandem of Kyler Murray and Kyle Allen did to ASU on Saturday so look early on to see how the Devils will respond.
KORI GARCIA – Junior Slotback
The other third of the dynamic triple-option strategy, Garcia didn’t have an incredibly impressive game against Montana, rushing for 49 yards on 15 carries. Still his nomination to the 2015 Big Sky Pre-Season All-Conference teams speaks to his past success. In 2014 he rushed for 1000+ yards and averaged an astonishing 6.6 yards per carry. While h alone may not kill the Devil defense but his presence still opens up Brown’s ability to have a big game. It’s worth noting that he is recovering from a broken bone in his foot that saw him some time in the spring practices.
MARCUS PAIGE-ALLEN – Junior Defensive Tackle
This matchup stands out because of the Arizona State o-line mystery. Was their performance against A&M a reflection on the all-world performance from Myles Garret and Daeshon Hall or does it point to significant problems for Arizona State? Allen has the potential to cause a some havoc. After amassing 40 tackles in his fist year with the Mustangs, he landed on the Big Sky Pre-Season All-Conference third team and was an FCS College Football Pre-Season All-American honorable mention.