TEMPE – Arizona State’s road trip to San Diego State this weekend carries more meaning than most regular-season matchups for coach Herm Edwards and members of his staff. For Edwards, he won’t just be facing an opponent but revisiting his past.
The coach played for the Aztecs his senior year after bouncing around from school to school throughout his college career. He joined San Diego State as a double-transfer and worked nights at a shipyard during his redshirt season “because there were no scholarships available.” From there, Edwards found his way in the NFL as an undrafted rookie and went on to have a career around football.
It eventually led him to Arizona State, which is ranked No. 23 in the Associated Press poll after its upset over then-ranked No. 15 Michigan State. Despite ASU being ranked in the Top 25 for the first time since 2015, Edwards is focused on the next opponent, not the poll.
“Well, rankings don’t help you win,” Edwards said during a press conference Monday. “Preparation and performance is how you win football games, and we won’t get caught up in that.”
Edwards’ history with San Diego State will add an extra layer of intrigue to ASU’s first road game of the season.
“I have a lot of respect for that program,” Edwards said. “Because I know what that program means to a lot of guys.”
When shaping his coaching staff this off-season for his first year at Arizona State, Edwards called on San Diego State Coach Rocky Long for guidance. Now, former SDSU coaches Danny Gonzales and Tony White are on the Sun Devils sideline, and joining Edwards for a homecoming in San Diego Saturday.
“Can’t say enough about Rocky Long,” Edwards said. “First of all, I can’t thank him enough for allowing me to interview his coordinator Danny Gonzales who is now with us along with Coach (Tony) White. They’ve made a big difference for us defensively in our system.”
Gonzales is Arizona State’s defensive coordinator, and White is the team’s cornerbacks coach. Defense was a major factor in Arizona State’s win against Michigan State, as it held the Spartans to 13 points, and set up the offense for what became a game-winning drive.
“They (SDSU) have a DNA similar to Michigan State’s. They want to run the football, they’re gonna play really good defense, they don’t give up a lot of points,” Edwards said. “They’re a good tackling group, hit the quarterback a lot. Similar to what we’re trying to become, so, they have that formula.”
San Diego State backup quarterback Ryan Agnew is expected to start against Arizona State Saturday, as starter Christian Chapman recovers from an MCL injury.
“Well the good part is Coach Gonzales knows who he is. He was on that staff, that helps you some,” Edwards said. “But we know who they are. They’re going to run the football.”
“The quarterback, he’s athletic. He can leave the pocket and make some plays, but they’re going to rely on their running game,” Edwards said.
Saturday’s road game will be a new challenge for the Sun Devils, and their last non-conference game before entering conference play the following week.
“We haven’t played a road game. Haven’t been on the road. This is a good test for us to see if we can continue to improve this week and try and win another football game, which will be very difficult, because this is a good opponent.”
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