Arizona State football: Questions over play-calling, Discipline blunders resurface in another setback in Utah.
During the second half of the ESPN broadcast, Rod Gilmore addressed on behalf of the whole Sun Devil country.
In short, Gilmore and the rest of Sun Devil Twitter chastised Arizona State football State’s second-half play calling as being too cautious. The Sun Devils were clearly dedicated to the run after a pair of early touchdown throws and over 100 yards in the air.
Herm Edwards re-emphasized the team’s dedication to its nationally-recognized running back room during his weekly news conference on Monday:
“The more you stick to [the running game], the more it will pay rewards, and it has so far this year.”
It did not, though, in the 35-21 loss to Utah on Saturday night. Was it this arrogance that led to the second-half stalemate? Is it a lack of execution? Regardless, the second half Sun Devils were nothing like the first, culminating in the first scoreless half of ASU football in 2021.
All ASU runners combined for 17 total running yards on 15 rushing attempts after halftime.
Utah got the ball down 21-7 to start the second half, marched 75 yards down the field, and scored to cut the game to two possessions. The Sun Devils answered with a seven-yard, three-and-out drive.
Utah would go on to score a touchdown on each of its subsequent drives in the second half.
“You could feel the enthusiasm back in the stadium.” “And then we couldn’t do anything offensively to counter it.” We couldn’t move the ball to score points, which was disappointing for both teams because we had been very good in the second half.”
When the offence is spread out, Jayden Daniels produces some of his greatest stuff. Daniels possesses pro-level decision-making and the ability to prolong plays, whether it’s using play-action to get Curtis Hodges or others into the second level, or spreading out the receivers to confuse defensive backs. Why not make the most of it?
Also, what happened to Ricky Pearsall after the first few drives? Pearsall has been the current “big-play” danger, but he was nowhere to be found when a chunk-play was needed the most.
Daniels (20-31, 237 yards, two touchdowns) excelled despite the fact that nearly half of his receiving corps had a drop or two. It was maybe his greatest effort of the year in terms of accuracy and execution.
To suggest that ASU lost its identity as a result of the defeat to Utah would be too simple.
The pass-first, then “run it down their throat” approach has been the game plan for the whole season. Utah just shown that it could be defeated.
The Sun Devils’ discipline was a concern once again, as they gave Utah 115 free yards in penalties. False start here, unlawful formation there, with a few assets here and there.
In retrospect, last week’s triumph against Stanford foreshadowed ASU’s collapse on Saturday. The similarities are startling.
ASU has dominated out of the gate for the past two weeks, but has slowed down after halfway. Utah took advantage of lulls and penalty problems this week, scoring 28 unanswered points and winning the game.
In the previous two games, the Sun Devils have been outscored 31-7 in the second half.
Aside from Tyler Johnson’s outstanding individual effort and a couple of first-half interceptions, the defence is also guilty. Both were overshadowed by the 28 points surrendered in the second half.
After two choices, Utah quarterback Cameron Rising (21-33, 247 yards, two touchdowns, two interceptions) continued to be an issue in both areas. Rising and the Utah offence, in particular, were 7-for-11 on third downs.
Simply put, coach Antonio Pierce’s defence was unable to exit the field.
Most of the Rose Bowl hoopla that has surrounding this squad since the spring has been debunked by this gut-wrenching, tale-of-two-halves performance. It will also cast a shadow on a few noteworthy points:
Jayden Daniels surpassed the 5000-yard mark in his career, putting him on track to end the season in the top 10 in throwing yards in ASU history.
Curtis Hodges has been the leading Sun Devil receiver for two weeks in a row (four receptions, 74 yards, one touchdown.) Since Zach Miller’s departure in 2007, Sun Devil fans have been clamouring for a playmaking tight end. Hodges may be the one. Look out for Jalin Conyers, an Oklahoma transfer who scored his first touchdown as a Sun Devil on Saturday. Both struggled with drops, but their stature and presence in the red zone cannot be overlooked.
The season of destiny is unlikely to conclude in the storybook finale that some have envisioned. Allegiant Stadium suddenly seems like a lifetime away with a 5-2 record.