Citizen Staff Writer
Two squads having disappointing seasons are fairly well matched offensively
By JOHN MOREDICH
Enough already about the rivalry. Let’s stop the talking and get ready to play football.
State bragging rights, the chance for Arizona State to play in a bowl game, salvaging seasons – all that has been discussed for two weeks.
It can all be a conversation piece again after the University of Arizona and Arizona State hook up at 1 p.m. tomorrow in Sun Devil Stadium.
“I’m sure there will be a lot of talking out there on the field,” Arizona receiver Andrae Thurman said.
Talk will be cheap unless the respective teams follow their game plans.
Offensively, the two have quite a few similarities.
Arizona’s Jason Johnson matches up well with ASU quarterback Jeff Krohn.
UA’s Clarence Farmers and ASU’s Delvon Flowers both gain big yardage and set up the pass.
There are game-breaking wide receivers, with Bobby Wade leading the Arizona receiving corps and Shaun McDonald the primary threat for ASU.
“I think Arizona has pretty darn good skill people,” ASU coach Dirk Koetter said. “I think their running back, Farmer, is among the top running backs in the conference. I voted for him first-team all-Pac-10. That’s how good a player I think he is.
“Any time you have a dangerous running back, that makes it the focal point of your defense.”
Farmer has rushed for 1,071 yards and is averaging 107 yards per game. Flowers has gained 853 yards and is averaging 95 yards.
Flowers has been at his best over the past couple of weeks, gaining 100 yards apiece against Washington State and Oregon.
Neither team relies solely on the run. It’s just the opposite; both go in hoping to establish the run, but both coaches seem to prefer the wide-open aerial attack.
Johnson is closing in on the school’s single-season touchdown and yardage records, needing four scoring tosses and 398 yards to become the leader in both categories.
Krohn’s numbers are impressive with 19 touchdown passes and, more important, only six interceptions. Johnson has thrown 12 picks.
The chief targets for each have been unstoppable lately. Wade has 51 receptions for 725 yards and seven touchdowns.
McDonald has 41 catches and four straight 100-yard-plus receiving games.
“Coach Mackovic has made it perfectly clear that he is not afraid to throw the ball downfield from any place, backed up or whatever,” Koetter said. “They have some dangerous receivers, especially Bobby Wade, who is very similar to Shaun McDonald as a proven playmaker in this league.”
With both offenses showing explosive tendencies, the pressure falls on defenses, which have been vulnerable.
UA’s Double Eagle Flex is six points away from setting a school record for most points allowed in a season. Arizona has allowed 356.
ASU’s unusual 4-2-5 scheme has been beaten for over 30 points on four occasions.
“(The Sun Devils) use their safeties as outside linebackers. They are there to play the run and drop back in coverage. It is really an eight-man front,” Arizona quarterback Johnson said. “It’s a little unique. It helps we have two weeks to prepare for this game.”
That extra time may also have been used to add trickery.
If history is any indication, look for a flea-flicker, a halfback pass, a fake punt or a throw back to the quarterback racing down the sidelines.
“In a rivalry game like this you tend to pull out all the stops, throw things out from your play book,” former Arizona coach Larry Smith said. “Anything goes.”
Comments by Citizen Sportswriter John Moredich
Offense Edge: ASU
The condition of ASU quarterback Jeff Krohn, who has a sore shoulder, makes all the difference. When healthy, he is the Pac-10′s high-efficiency passer and the No. 6 thrower in the country. Krohn is expected to play, and if he can’t hold up, UA’s Jason Johnson would deliver more points.
Defense Edge: ASU
ASU’s 4-2-5 defense is designed to stop the run. If Clarence Farmer can’t become pivotal approach to UA game plan, the Sun Devils could tee off on Johnson. Devils’ young secondary is vulnerable. UA line must pressure QBs.
Special teams Edge: ASU
The Sun Devils have Lou Groza Award semifinalist in Mike Barth, who has made 9 of 14 field goal attempts and 34 of 35 PATs. UA place-kicker Sean Keel has same numbers despite a rough start. Punter Nick Murphy gives ASU a slight advantage.
Intangibles Edge: ASU
ASU has beaten UA convincingly the past two years – 42-27 and 30-17 – and still has a shot at an above-.500 record. The Devils have more to play for than just state bragging rights, especially at home. Outcome: ASU 31, UA 21
- Updates, analysis and a photo gallery are at the Citizen’s website during and after the game.
PHOTO CAPTIONS: MIKE RYNEARSON/The Arizona Republic
ASU quarterback Jeff Krohn in 2001: 210 yards per game, 55.0 percent completion rate.
ASU wide receiver Shaun McDonald (81) averages 107 yards per game.
JEFF STANTON/Tucson Citizen
UA quarterback Jason Johnson in 2001: 212 yards per game, 56.1 percent completion rate.