Sutton expects to be 100 percent for USC game
NOV 07, 2012 6:47p ET
Sutton said he expects to be 100 percent for ASU's matchup with USC on Saturday. Head coach Todd Graham said Tuesday that Sutton was probably playing at about 70 or 80 percent health-wise against Oregon State last week.
Sutton did not say much about the injury itself other than it isn't causing him much pain. After Sutton went down tackling Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota on the second defensive play of the game, initial impressions were of a season-ending type injury.
Sutton admitted he was among those fearing the worst, and he did not sleep that night.
"When it happened I was scared," Sutton said. "I didn’t know what the MRI was going to say, but when I got it back, it was just a whole load off my shoulders."
Sutton ended up missing only one complete game but also a good deal of practice time. He spent last week catching up and is still doing so.
"I'm just trying to get back into it, get the feel of everything again," Sutton said. "Sitting out a week really put me back a little."
Any setback from the lost practice time hardly showed during ASU's 36-26 loss in Corvallis. On the third play of the game, a charging Sutton caused Beavers quarterback Cody Vaz to fumble. Defensive end Junior Onyeali picked up the fumble and easily returned it one yard for a touchdown, giving ASU a quick lead. Sutton also recorded a sack and broke up two passes.
Sutton's return to the lineup provided a boost to the defense's play -- though it regressed a bit when Sutton was off the field -- and also to its spirits. Sutton is a leader on the field and a cornerstone of the team's defensive plan. He played about 75 percent of the snaps and said Wednesday he could sense teammates were fired up for his return.
"The first play I made in the Oregon State game, everybody was just bouncing on their toes," Sutton said. "It makes me feel good to have that kind of support from all your teammates on both sides of the ball -- not just defense, but offense too. Just to have the guys come up to you and say 'Glad to have you back,' really means a lot."
Saturday's game against the Trojans represents a homecoming for Sutton, who grew up in Southern California watching USC. Sutton graduated from Centennial High in Corona, Calif., about an hour from the Coliseum.
"To go back to Southern California and play in the Coliseum means a lot," Sutton said.
In what Graham called his team's best Wednesday practice of the season, the Sun Devils focused on red-zone play. Converting red-zone chances into touchdowns has been a struggle lately.
"We've just got to get better at that," Graham said. "I think a lot of that you have to attribute to the other team doing a good job, and then us just not executing. I think some of it's just us trying to do too much."
Over the last three games, ASU has scored on 11 of 15 red-zone opportunities. Seven of those scores were touchdowns, meaning ASU got in the end zone on less than 50 percent of its chances to do so. On the season, ASU has converted 40 of 52 red-zone chances into points. That ranks seventh in the Pac-12 and 86th nationally.
Graham said third-down offense and red-zone defense were also emphasized in Wednesday's practice. ASU's red-zone defense ranks 93rd nationally, having only stopped opponents in the red zone four times out of 29 chances.
ASU enters Saturday's game ranked fifth in the nation for fewest yards penalized per game, with just 29.33. USC, meanwhile, is the third most penalized team in the nation, with 78.00 penalty yards per game. Graham sees an opportunity in the significant difference, but only if ASU stays disciplined.
"We talked about that against UCLA as well, and we had penalties that cost us," Graham said. "We've got to have zero penalties. That's what we're after instead of two or three."
Graham illustrated his point that even a low number of penalties can have a major impact by recalling a few recent penalties. Against UCLA, a holding call took an ASU touchdown off the board, and a roughing-the-passer call against Onyeali on a third down kept alive a drive that resulted in a touchdown. Against Oregon State, the same penalty on third down, again by Onyeali, allowed Oregon State to kick a field goal.
USC this season has committed 85 penalties for 702 total yards while ASU has committed 35 for 264 yards. USC's 9.44 penalties per game average is highest among the 120 FBS schools.