The offense took a little while to get going against the San Diego State Aztecs. Senior quarterback Manny Wilkins and crew finally developed a drive on their third possession of the game. That drive ended with a 12-yard touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk.
Then the next ASU drive ended in a touchdown as well. The drive after that got all the way down to SDSU’s 11-yard line before the fourth-and-1 call that will be discussed later. In those three drives, Wilkins went 13-for-16 for 197 yards and two touchdowns (one rushing). He’d finish the night with three total touchdowns with 341 yards on 31-of-46 passes.
But of course the senior leader thought he could’ve done more.
“It’s on me. Gotta make sure I give us a better opportunity to win the football game. Throw the ball up and down the field,” Wilkins said after the loss. “I’m just going to be bluntly honest, they couldn’t cover us. Should’ve thrown these guys the ball more, given (more) opportunities. Their (defensive backs) were garbage so we should’ve… yeah that’s on me.”
After being the top run defense in terms of yards allowed through the first couple of weeks of the season, ASU no longer owns that crown. The Aztecs produced two 100-yard rushers on Saturday between running backs junior Juwan Washington and sophomore Chase Jasmin. SDSU finished the night with 311 yards on the ground.
Head coach Herm Edwards in his press conference on Monday mentioned how the defense’s alignments weren’t always in place, leading to big plays.
“Well, a couple things. Some of them, the box wasn’t set up correctly on us. We didn’t line up correctly. Some of that is just alignment error and that’s what you dread the most, some of the guys -- and I don’t know if it was fatigue or guys just didn’t trust it and wanted to make a play. And what (SDSU) did, they did a good job of really getting the ball to the second level where our safeties and corners had to tackle. If you look at the tackle list when your corners and safeties are making a majority of the tackles that’s a bad day because that’s not how it’s constructed at all.”
They have to make some, they do a great job of bringing those receivers in, cracking the support and asking the corner to come up there. But it’s one thing for a corner to come up there it’s another for a guard to come up there trying to hit the corner. And we’ve got tough guys but it’s just, they did a nice job of really putting us in that situation at times due to sometimes their scheme, due to sometimes we failing not to line up correctly and our own scheme. So it’s a teaching moment, I think the guys watched the film yesterday. We’ve gotta do a better job of that this week and we’ve just gotta stop the run, it’s just, it’s painful to watch.”
Even though safety Jalen Harvey had a good performance of 13 tackles to lead the team on Saturday night, it’s probably not a stat Edwards wants to see again.
The rushing offense struggled again for the second straight week. After having 44 yards against Michigan State, the Sun Devils followed that up with 36 yards against SDSU.
“Give San Diego State a lot of credit, they were in our backfield a lot. No clean runs, didn’t have anything clean,” Edwards said on Monday. “They got after us pretty good, that defense. It’s been in place now for almost a decade and they had an opportunity to study us and they played (us) last year. And they did a good job of stopping us from running the ball.”
The offensive line rotation also needs to find more consistency, but that will also come when there is a set unit of five players.
But the ugliest part of Saturday was the offense for the first 26 minutes of the second half. After the failed fourth-and-1 play in the second quarter where the Sun Devils could’ve gone up 10 points into halftime. The offense never looked the same.
ASU went three-and-out four straight drives to open the second half. They didn’t pick up their first, first down until four minutes left in the game.
Again, it was Wilkins who took the blame for the lack of offense.
“I mean we went into Michigan State last week, came into our house and we were down 13 going into the fourth quarter. We were down three coming out of the third quarter,” he said. “Man if we can’t score three points and scoring zero points in the second half is dog (expletive) so that’s one me. I gotta make sure we can put some points on the board. It’s unacceptable for this offense and the talent we have and the guys we have on the field to score zero points. So obviously I gotta change something and I gotta be better to put some points on the board.”
Would the offense have performed better if the Sun Devils kicked the field goal in the second half? The world will never know.