After a 30-year career as a football coach, you’d think Herm Edwards had pretty much seen everything. But his Arizona State Sun Devils gave him a new experience in Saturday’s 21-3 loss to Utah.
But he would have been happy to have avoided this one.
“I’ve never been involved in a game where a team had 12 fouls,” the ASU head coach admitted following the game with the Utes that dropped ASU to being a .500 team in the Pac-12 standings. Unfortunately, it was his team that recorded the ignominious feat.
And that gives Edwards and his staff just one more area of play to clean up before heading to California to play UCLA.
The pile of fouls in the Utes game, which cost the Sun Devils 122 yards, was symbolic of the way the game went for the Devils, who entered the game ranked No. 17 and almost fell from the national rankings. It was a sloppy performance by a team that couldn’t keep its focus and was continually hampered by mistakes that typically come with having a young team.
ASU was a team that was seen as over-achieving coming into the contest. The Devils had been picked to finish in third place in the Pac-12, but were off to a 5-1 start, 2-1 in conference play, and had upset No. 15 California and No. 18 Michigan State – both games on the road.
But this road game against No. 13 Utah had a surprise element, a defense that was tougher than any the Sun Devils had experienced so far this season. The Utes chased ASU freshman quarterback Jayden Daniels all night long, never letting him get comfortable enough to use his talented receivers as an effective weapon.
An offensive line that included a pair of freshmen was no match for a seasoned Utah defensive front that made life difficult for Daniels and was primarily responsible for holding the ASU offense to 136 total yards – 104 of those contributed by one man, junior running back Eno Benjamin, who finished with 104 rushing yards.
The weather in Salt Lake City was cold and rainy, not something the ASU players were used to. But it certainly didn’t bother the Utes. They ran up 342 yards of total offense, balancing it almost perfectly with 191 yards passing and 151 rushing.
ASU’s defensive unit did what it could to squeeze this one into the Win column, but the offense wasn’t a lot of help. The defense collected a season-high four takeaways, but the offense wound up converting those opportunities to a measly three points.
The 136 total yards of offense for the game was the worst output in more than a decade. ASU managed just 122 in a game against UCLA during the 2008 season. Against Utah, the Devils managed jut two third-down conversions in 13 attempts.
The Sun Devils (5-2, 2-2) are now tied with UCLA (2-5, 2-2) and University of Arizona (4-3, 2-2) for third place in the Pac-12 South. ASU did manage to stay among the nationally-ranked, but dropped from No. 17 to No. 24.
There is some good news as the Devils prepare for Saturday’s game in the Rose Bowl. After struggling with a Utah defense that is ranked No. 4 in the nation, they will face a UCLA team that is ranked No. 114.
(Photo: ASU Athletics)