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ASU Football 10 Point Preview: Sparky looks to get back on the horse against the Mustangs

The unranked Arizona State Sun Devils (0-1) look to bounce back at home against the FCS #20 Cal Poly Mustangs (1-0). Poly looks to submit another upset bid, after knocking off FCS #7 Montana in their opening week.

Gump Hayes celebrates with his quarterback after Berco's third quarter touchdown
Gump Hayes celebrates with his quarterback after Berco's third quarter touchdown
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

With the tents of Camp Fargo slowly surrounding the outside of Sun Devil Stadium, our 2015 home opener is finally here. As freshman buy gold t-shirts to match the crowd that will pack the newly renovated Frank Kush Field, every Sun Devils' mind has the same question, "Where do we go from here?"

The last time we started 0-1 was 13 years ago after falling to #10 Nebraska in Lincoln. Since that day, we've played FBS & FCS cupcakes to start our seasons. Coach Todd Graham finally broke us out of that repetitive rut and challenged the mighty SEC conference. We all got behind a team lead by a senior quarterback who gave us one of the greatest plays in our school's history and a running back/wide receiver hybrid who can seemingly do it all. In the slightly alerted words of Princess Carolyn, "So last week, you let yourself fall in love a little bit, and you got your heart broken. Serves you right for having feelings." We went out. We took a chance. We fell flat.

But, the season is not over. We are hungry. We smell roses. We're on to Cal Poly.

  • Texas Takeaways: For us to expect the offense to be firing on all cylinders against an SEC defense in week one was a tad bit naive. We have a first year full-time starting quarterback at the helm of an offense that is trying to replace the production of their leading receiver and running back from last season. Early offensive struggles evident against UNM in 2014 show this offense, like any offense, can take a couple weeks to get fully humming. Would it have been nice for Berco to torch the Aggie defense and put our minds at ease? Yes, but in week two, I'm operating under "better late than never." In regards to our defense, 38 points doesn't do justice to what they did last Saturday. We only allowed 17 points going into the fourth against an offensive mind who is one of the best in the game. The dam break in the fourth was a product of being on the field seemingly all game long and being worn down by the Aggies. Three quarters of stellar play against a loaded offense should have left any Sun Devil with a good feeling in their stomach, especially after last season. Our young defense is growing up before our eyes and I for one couldn't be more excited.
  • Where in the World is Kalen Ballage? Well, probably in bed. The Sun Devil running game struggled mightily without the sophomore back last week, who had to be flown home after contracting a full blown case of mono. Considering they probably won't need Ballage in week two, expect Kalen to be home, eating chicken noodle soup with a side of OJ during Saturday's home opener. Especially with players in close proximity, mono could spread like wildfire. Keeping him home seems to fall in line with the "better safe than sorry" approach. There's a good chance Ballage doesn't make his debut until the Trojans ride into town later this month.
  • No Ballage definitely hurt the Devils last week, but maybe less so than self-inflicted wounds. Despite Berco's 19 yard scamper for our second touchdown, Mike netted a grand total of zero (yes, zero) yards in week one. Whether you wanna blame Norvell's offensive play calling or the leaky offensive line play, the results just weren't there... but I'll go with the latter. It's hard to honor the read option when your quarterback is almost zero threat on the ground.
  • No Jaelen, no problem? On the brighter end of the spectrum, 6 grabs for DJ Foster means his transition is sort of paying dividends. With Ballage back, it should help mitigate his loss in the running game, which was glaringly obvious against A&M. On the other end, graduate transfer Devin Lucien's debut left a lot to be desired. The 6'2" receiver didn't nearly stretch the field enough, allowing the Aggies to load the box and tee off on a frantic Berco. Whether its Jefferson or Lucien, without some kind of deep presence, the inside running game will continue to struggle, no matter who's joining Berco in the backfield.
  • From "Aggie Raid" to triple option, this Arizona State defense will go from one extreme to the other in week two. Originally constructed by former Army head coach Rich Ellerson, Poly has lead the FCS circuit in rushing two years running, while ranking in the bottom ten in passing yardage. The Mustang's more traditional triple option should be a nice sneak preview to the New Mexico's spread option the Devils will see in week three. A State took almost the entire first half to crack the code on the Lobo's offensive attack last season.
  • Heading Poly's three headed monster running game is hip hop sensation redshirt senior Chris Brown. A second year starter, Brown lead his team in rushing last season, while averaging over 100 ypg on the ground and through the air. Accounting for 29 total touchdowns in 2014, the Devils will have to hit the dual threat signal caller early and often. The fumble prone QB coughed the ball up 10 times last season.
  • Wingback Kori Garcia also returns to the Mustangs, as a FCS preseason All-American. An 1,000 yard rusher in 2014, Poly's feature back looks to follow up a spectacular sophomore campaign. Unfortunately, Garcia spent most of the spring on the shelf, recovering from a broken bone in his foot, and didn't look as lethal in the Mustang's opener, only netting 49 yards against the Griz.
  • The final piece of their traditional triple option will be sophomore fullback Joe Protheroe. A first year starter, the bruising back checks in at about 230 pounds and will take the bulk of the carries between the tackles. Despite possibly tired legs after racking up 29 carries against Montana in week one, Arizona State's struggles with Tra Carson could mean Joey is in line for a big game on Saturday.
  • No real news on the uniform front other than we'll get our first look at adidas's maroon jerseys. Purists cross your fingers for the traditional gold-maroon-gold, unless you'd like to save it for U of A. On the opposing sideline, Poly's away uniforms are further proof Nike doesn't get out of bed for anything less than decent. Our official fan hashtag (yes, that's a thing) for home game numero uno is "Embrace the Grind". To be honest and not a cynical jerk, it matches nicely with the Mustang's grind them out style of play.
  • Opponent Fun Fact: "In 2013, Cal Poly alumnus Robin Baggett (Business '73) and his wife, Michelle donated a gelding named Moonstar to Cal Poly for the purpose of boosting school spirit on campus. The live mascot is intended to supplement, not replace, Musty, the costumed character that has served the university as a spirit symbol for years." Maybe the horse formally known as Moonstar should replace Musty because a. something about his eyes makes him look deranged and b. naming your mascot after a word that means "having an odor of mold" is slightly off putting.