SOUTH BEND – Notre Dame will face the most explosive offense it will likely see all season when it takes on Arizona State.
The No. 22 Sun Devils (3-1) enter Saturday’s Shamrock Series game – an Irish (3-2) home game that is played off campus each season, this year in Arlington Texas – with the nation’s No. 15 offense (505 yards per game) and No. 11 scoring offense (44.3 per game).
We can’t afford to give up any big plays, Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said. They catch the ball very well. They’re a team that will challenge you on the perimeter throwing the football, and you have to keep (quarterback Taylor Kelly) in check running the football, as well. He’s very capable through their zone read package of running the ball. Containing the quarterback, running the football, and obviously not giving up the big chunk plays. Eliminating the big plays defensively is absolutely crucial to our success.
Taylor Kelly is one of three FBS quarterbacks who has thrown for more than 300 yards in each of his starts this season. The junior is completing 61.4 percent of his passes and has thrown for the ninth-most yards of any quarterback with 1,370.
He has also thrown 19 touchdowns to four interceptions, and he has run for 124 yards.
He does extend plays, and he’s athletic enough that he can run the football and pick up yardage, coach Kelly said. Kelly throws it but can run it.
The Sun Devils’ quarterback is surrounded by plenty of weapons including a running back tandem that can hurt teams in multiple ways.
Senior Marion Grice has run for 256 yards with eight touchdowns and has 22 receptions for 183 yards with four touchdowns.
Sophomore D.J. Foster has run for only 82 yards, but the running back is Arizona State’s second-leading receiver with 22 catches for 258 yards and a touchdown.
They’re coming out of the backfield, catching the football, Brian Kelly said. You know, again, just they like to keep them involved in the passing game, free releasing them out of the back, getting them involved in screens, and obviously in their running game. You have to account for them at all times.
Sophomore receiver Jaelen Strong leads the Sun Devils with 31 catches for 433 yards, and he has two touchdowns.
Senior tight end Chris Coyle has 11 receptions for 213 yards with two touchdowns, and senior receiver Kevin Ozier has five catches for 115 yards and a touchdown.
They utilize every aspect out on the field whether it’s a running back, the quarterback and they have great receivers, cornerback Cole Luke said. I think they just utilize that every play with the read option.
And if those weapons were not enough to deal with, Arizona State likes to strike quickly. The Sun Devils have scored in three minutes or less on 22 of their 28 scoring drives.
Arizona State scored in three minutes or less eight times in last weekend’s 62-41 win over USC.
Notes: Brian Kelly told reporters Thursday that defensive end Sheldon Day (ankle) will play against Arizona State. Freshman running back Greg Bryant has tendinitis in his knee and will be out for at least four weeks, Kelly said.