ASU football looks to avoid letdown, extend win streak to three games

Arizona State running back Eno Benjamin jumps into the end zone for a touchdown against Utah in the second half on Nov. 3 at Sun Devil Stadium.

The last time Arizona State won consecutive games, coach Herm Edwards admits it didn’t react well. That came to start the season and the second win — a 16-13 cliffhanger against then-ranked Michigan State — propelled the Sun Devils into the national rankings.

The Sun Devils proceeded to lose road games at San Diego State and Washington, each by seven points during a stretch in which they lost four of five contests.

So excuse the ASU head coach for not getting overly excited about the back-to-back wins over USC and Utah that have the Sun Devils in the mix for a Pac-12 South Division title.

“They’ve gone through when they’ve won too early, everybody telling them they were this and that. Obviously they didn’t handle it very well,” Edwards said of his team.  “So, in life you don’t get a lot of opportunities. Now this opportunity presents itself again. We’ve won two, and I made light of it but I said it after the game (against Utah) was over in the locker room. I said, ‘Hey, OK, big deal. Never won three, can we do that? Let’s see.’ It was kind of a challenge, win three in a row, we haven’t done it yet so I don’t know what we’re all excited about.”

Next up for ASU (5-4, 3-3) is a noon showdown against UCLA (2-7, 2-4) Saturday at Sun Devil Stadium in the last home game of the season.

Edwards is hoping the maturity his team has displayed in recent weeks will prevent a repeat of the earlier malaise.

After UCLA, the Sun Devils conclude with road games at Oregon and Arizona — both of whom are playing well now. Win out and the Sun Devils are the South champions. Lose one and the picture gets blurry.

Utah, USC and Arizona are at 4-3 in Pac-12 play with ASU at 3-3. The Sun Devils have three conference games left, the others two.

Edwards isn’t getting caught up in the talk about a potential conference title game. 

“Our focus is on this week and only this week. I’ve always coached that way. I don’t get involved in all that other stuff,” he said. 

“We have an opportunity to try to win three in a row. We haven’t done that. That’s the biggest hurdle we’ve got to face. Can we win three in a row? Haven’t done it yet. So until we do that, we haven’t done a whole lot. We’ve won two games in a row, whoopee. Can we win three? That’s how I function. I don’t get caught up in all the other stuff. It’s just too much. It’s too much to explain. Just win. When you win, it takes care of itself.”

Edwards is not overlooking UCLA, which is coming off a 42-21 road loss at Oregon. Wins by the Bruins have come at the expense of Arizona (31-3) and Cal (37-7).

The Bruins also have a first-year coach but a veteran in Chip Kelly and are going through a youth movement. Special-teams issues proved pivotal in the Bruins’ most recent loss, but Edwards has a lot of respect for his counterpart.

“Offensively, Chip (Kelly) has done a nice job with this offense,” Edwards said. “They’ve shuffled quarterbacks. They move the ball very well. They played tough against tough against Oregon. They’re an efficient offense. Defense is pretty athletic. They’re a scary team. Time of possession, that’s what Chip likes. They’re balanced, they’ve got a good runner, runs the ball well. So this is a big test for us.”

ASU players earn Pac-12 honors

Junior wide receiver N’Keal Harry and freshman linebacker Merlin Robertson have earned Pac-12 Player of the Week honors for their performances in the Sun Devils’ 38-20 upset of No. 16  Utah on Saturday.

Harry earns weekly honors for the third time this season. This is his second selection as Offensive Player of the Week and comes a week after he was honored for his play on special teams. Harry caught nine passes for 161 yards and three touchdowns with scoring receptions for 3, 23 and 61 yards.

Robertson earns Defensive Player of the Week honors after making nine tackles and snagging his first career interception. His contribution helped hold the Utes to 325 total yards, 100 below their average, as well as 20 points, half of what they had been averaging over the previous four games.

Special-teams honors went to senior safety Ugochukwu Amadi of Oregon.

Sun Devils land another commitment

ASU landed another commitment for the class of 2019 from offensive lineman Dohnovan West (6-3, 285) out of Bishop Alemany (Mission Hills, Calif.).

West had 17 offers and visited ASU last month during the Sun Devils’ bye week. His other visits were to Boise State, Nebraska and Utah. ASU was one of seven offers from Pac-12 schools.

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