SAN DIEGO — San Diego State coach Rocky Long was driving to work earlier this week when he heard on the radio that the NFL’s Jets knew all the Detroit Lions’ signals, resulting in a 48-17 victory for New York.
Then it hit Long.
“Guess who is going to have all of our signals and all of our hand signals? Arizona State is going to have that,” Long said about the No. 23 Sun Devils (2-0), who visit the Aztecs (1-1) on Saturday night. “We’re not going to have theirs, but they’re going to have ours. Besides being a really good and talented football team, they also have some other advantages.”
That’s one of the costs of SDSU‘s success under Long. After the Aztecs went 10-3 last year, new ASU coach Herm Edwards hired away Aztecs defensive coordinator Danny Gonzales to serve in the same role with the Sun Devils. That’s why the Sun Devils will have the signals used when SDSU is playing defense.
Can’t Long, an old-school, defensive-minded coach change the signals?
“No, all that would do is confuse our players,” he said. “If you confuse your own players, you have no chance whatsoever to compete. We’ll live with the fact that they have an advantage and will try and do the best we can.”
The best he can do is to try to disguise them.
“It’s an opportunity for us, but I’d say we are the big underdogs,” said Long, whose Aztecs will be without injured quarterback Christian Chapman and defensive tackle Noble Hall.
The Sun Devils will look to stay undefeated under Edwards, who played his final season of college ball with the Aztecs in 1976 and graduated from SDSU with a degree in criminal justice.
“It will be a unique contest, I think, for both parties,” Edwards said.
Here are some other things to watch:
HERM’S HOMECOMING: Edwards played defensive back for the Aztecs in 1976, when they went 10-1 as an independent. “It’s always fun to go back to San Diego when you’re a California native and you ended up getting your college degree and playing there my senior year,” he said. “Even when I was in pro football, coming back with the Eagles, playing the Chargers, or coaching against the Chargers, obviously always was a lot of fun. I still have a lot of friends who live in San Diego, so it’s always a great opportunity to visit the folks you’ve kind of grown up with and are still living in the San Diego area.”
LAST YEAR: ASU is looking to avenge a 30-20 loss to the Aztecs in Tempe last season in which RB Rashaad Penny, now with the Seattle Seahawks, had 353 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns. “I see a lot of the same athletes out there, but they’re playing at a much higher and more energetic level than they did last year. That’s why they’re playing well,” Long said.
NEW QB: Junior Ryan Agnew will make his first career start for the Aztecs. Agnew came off the bench after Chapman injured his left knee Saturday night and led the Aztecs to a comeback win against Sacramento State, completing 11 of 17 passes for 159 yards.
GREAT MATCHUP: SDSU’s Juwan Washington has gained 314 yards on 60 carries (5.2 yard average) and scored four times. ASU has the No. 1 run defense in the country, allowing 1.1 yards per rush and just one TD in two games.
BIG BOOST: ASU got an early signature win under Edwards when it beat then-No. 15 Michigan State 16-13 at Tempe on Saturday night. “Anytime a Pac-12 team plays teams similar, it’s always good to get a win,” Edwards said. “It helps the conference. We play at night and sometimes people on the East Coast don’t watch us a lot. It was a gratifying win for our players. Now, how do we handle beating a team like that? Because we’re about to play a team similar in San Diego State. They have a great program. What Rocky Long has done there is a testament to what kind of coach he is and what these guys have been able to build.”