LaDarius Henderson doesn’t have fond memories of playing against Utah.
The senior left guard was part of two straight losses at Utah.
“Personally, I really don’t like Utah. My teammates know that since I’ve been here it’s not my cup of tea,” Henderson said.
Henderson refers to the 21-3 loss to Utah in his freshman season in 2019, a memory that comes back to him every time the Sun Devils and Utes meet.
For returning players, last season’s 35-21 loss at Utah is an even fresher memory.
The game marked the beginning of the end of last season.
ASU went 3-0 in the Pac-12 in a streak that included a thrilling win over UCLA. It was all lost with a second-half slump against Utah with 28 unanswered points.
The Sun Devils don’t have time to get into Pac-12 play with three ranked teams in the coming weeks. ASU will head straight for the fire with defending conference champion Utah heading to Sun Devil Stadium on Saturday.
“When you watch the tape you felt you had a chance and you look at some mistakes you made and that’s what we’re trying to clear up now. We’re trying to correct some mistakes and hopefully fix some mistakes. ‘get a better result,’ ASU defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson said.
“We thought we had a good half. They came back and made some adjustments and dropped the ball to us. They’re going to come out and be physical, it’s just who they are. They learned skills in each position,” he added.
The game showed the alarming scenario of ASU’s lack of discipline with 115 yards given up on 13 penalties.
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Utah’s importance in the Pac-12 is not lost on ASU. Ranked No. 13 in the latest poll, the Utes have one of the strongest defenses averaging 14.3 points surrendered in the first three games. Utah has the best pass defense in the Pac-12 with opponents averaging 90.0 yards per game.
Even though the Utes lost by three runs to Florida in the season opener, the program beat Southern Utah and San Diego State in blowout wins with one touchdown given up in every game.
“They are physical. We are definitely physical. They’re a disciplined team and I feel like that’s a big part of what makes them great. They’re really awesome and I’m not going to sit here and tell you they aren’t because they are. I have a lot of respect for this coach and his players and the way they are playing this game. It’s great fun to play with guys like that,” Henderson said.
With a new coach at the helm, ASU is tasked with adapting to changes within the program in a short period of time. Interim head coach Shaun Aguano has upped the pace of training but also encouraged his players to adopt a mindset that emphasizes training one day at a time.
Short-term memory is something ASU will need after a disappointing loss to Eastern Michigan last week left the team in a bad mood.
“Everyone is focused on what they’re doing right now. We know we’re playing Utah this weekend and they’re a good team. We’re going to focus on tomorrow, Thursday, Friday, and then when it comes time for the game, all that work is going to show and we’re going to go out and play,” said full-back Case Hatch.
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