No. 18 Arizona State (5-1, 2-1 Pac-12) doesn't make it easy on head coach Herm Edwards. Saturday was one of those instances as they came back to beat the Washington State Cougars (3-3, 0-3 Pac-12) 38-34 on a late touchdown by freshman quarterback Jayden Daniels.
“I told them (President Michael Crow and Athletic Director Ray Anderson), these guys are going to give me a heart attack,” Edwards said. “I’m 65 years old...But that's who they are.”
The young Sun Devils, led by Daniels, were able to capture the team’s third comeback win of the season and first conference victory at Sun Devil Stadium. Daniels finished the game with 363 passing yards and three touchdowns, while adding 23 yards on the ground. His biggest rush of the day was a 17-yard touchdown that was the deciding factor in ASU’s win.
“We want to refrain from game-winning drives, but it felt like the other two (Michigan State and Cal). Nothing different,” Daniels said. “Just staying composed and go down the field and score.”
Daniels marched the offense down the field when they were down three with 2:30 left, and he received help from junior running back Eno Benjamin. Daniels completed four passes to his halfback for 30 yards. He also added an important five yards on the ground.
Then came Daniels’ run for the end zone.
He has been known to slide on most of his open field rushes, trying to preserve his body through the grueling game. But this time, it didn't matter.
“I see the middle of the field wide open and I see number 13 (linebacker Jahad Woods) drop back and try and take it away (post to Brandon Aiyuk), and it just opened up and I took off running,” Daniels said.
He didn’t know how to explain his emotions after the big score but he was humble. He gave credit to the whole offense.
“Going back and looking at it, really just having a big game that we had as an offense today,” Daniels said. “Brandon Aiyuk, Eno, the o-line played really well today and it was just a good team win.”
The offense put up 532 yards (363 throwing, 169 rushing), and added 25 first downs in an offensive display.
In the air, Aiyuk had a career day with seven receptions for 196 yards and three touchdowns, earning two of his house calls on the same slant route to beat the Cougar defense.
Amidst the high-scoring contest, Edwards alluded to the fact that he wants his quarterback to be himself, no matter the situation.
“I’ve always told players that. Be who you are,” Edwards said. “You just be Jayden Daniels every Saturday and that will be fine.”
Daniels has now marched down the field on the road against two ranked oppositions in Michigan State and Cal. Today, he pulled off more late-game heroics.
“Be Jayden Daniels and that will be good enough,” Edwards said.
The Sun Devil leader who patrols the sideline knows that Daniels can't do it all the time, but he has already done it three times, and that’s a feat in itself. He knew that his offense had to show up, and they were able to do just enough to get the job done.
“He knows that when the moment appears, it’s never too big for him and that's what good players understand. They want the moment and they don't always succeed, but they aren't afraid of it,” Edwards said. “There's a lot of moments in that game that I always tell the players, that's why you play this game.”
With another ASU victory, it’s possible that it takes another step in the top-25 rankings. Edwards isn’t worried about that, though. Instead, he has a motto that has been engrained into his team. He reiterated it again in Saturday’s postgame press conference.
“Stay humble and hungry.”