In the first Bowl trip of the Herm Edwards era, ASU looked strong. They weren’t favored and they were without their best offensive and defensive players in N’Keal Harry (draft) and Merlin Robertson (family emergency).
So what kind of performances were put together in Sin City?
He broke a school record for most rushing yards in a season after totaling 118 yards Saturday.
Eno Benjamin, who is going to be the offensive juggernaut for his next two seasons, recovered from a low-yardage performance against U of A for his 9th 100-yard rushing game.
He finished with 1,642 yards rushing, surpassing Woody Green’s single-season rushing record (1,565), which was set in 1972.
“It’s too bad it came in a loss but his effort all season says something about the direction of where we’re heading,” coach Herm Edwards said.
They had their moments but it was a rough overall performance for the Sun Devil defense.
Interceptions from Aashari Crosswell and Chase Lucas as well as a fumble recovery from Shannon Forman were certainly highlights, but they had a rough time getting to the quarterback.
Only one tackle for loss shows the struggle they had getting to Fresno State quarterback Marcus McMaryion, who didn’t put together that great of a performance either; 15-of-29 for 176 yards and two interceptions.
Where they got truly beaten up was on the ground. MVP of the game Ronnie Rivers carried the ball 24 times for 212 yards, including a 68-yard touchdown run. He had two in total.
Defensive coordinator Danny Gonzales took more of a look at what his defense will be moving forward as opposed to the performance Saturday.
“I will say it’s a successful foundation,” he said. “We’ve laid down the blocks of where we want to go, the kids understand the expectation, they know what we expect them to do and they’ve done a good job of handling themselves with that part so far.”
Manny Wilkins certainly puts in the effort and the heart day in and day out, but his stat line could not support how much effort was there that Saturday.
19-of-31, 129 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. The first interception went back for six, and his second, was with barely any time left and he lied on the turf, shaken up.
An unfortunate way to end a career, down on the ground after throwing the game-ending interception.
Wilkins turned out to be fine, and he knows the performance he gave.
“I’m good, I left it all out there so that’s all I needed to do,” he said.
If you want a grand takeaway from this season, this felt like a much better 7-6 than last year’s 7-6.
Granted, Todd Graham wasn’t coaching for much as he had been fired weeks before his bowl game, but the expectations for Herm Edward’s in his first season were far surpassed.
He took a team predicted to finish last finish second in the Pac-12 South. Of course, they were one win away from the championship game, but the strong recruiting classes and players to carry over from next year certainly provide plenty of hope that ASU will be a dominant football program once again.