A year ago, Jayden Daniels begrudgingly watched Joey Yellen trade blows with Kedon Slovis.
As Slovis ripped the Sun Devils apart, landing blow after blow in the first quarter, the Trojans built up a lead that was insurmountable, and all Daniels could do was restlessly observe.
Fast forward a year, Daniels looked-on from the sidelines as Slovis came alive and carved the Sun Devils defense up in the final five minutes of Saturday’s game, handing ASU a gut-wrenching loss to open 2020.
Zak Hill in the first 3.5 quarters
Losing Frank Darby, your only receiver who has played college snaps, in the first quarter could have been a death sentence for some coordinators. Not Hill. He stayed persistent in establishing the run, and stayed patient even when the offense stalled early.
Hill’s schemes allowed his playmakers to work in space, and designed runs for Daniels, which forced the Trojan linebackers to play off, which opened up the field for running backs DeaMonte Trayanum and Rachaad White.
Hill was playing with a stacked deck, and put ASU in position to walk away with a victory.
DeaMonte Trayanum And Rachaad White
Eno Benjamin who? The true freshman from Akron, Ohio ran with something that the Sun Devils lacked in 2019: Aggression.
Trayanum averaged seven yards per carry, found the end zone twice, and was a tone-setter that allowed Hill to stick to the run.
White racked up 146 yards from scrimmage, including a screen pass that he took 55 yards to the house. The Devils’ leaned heavily on their new backfield with the absence of Darby, and Trayanum and White delivered.
Defensively, ASU suffered from cramps, and nobody had it worse than Jack Jones. The former Trojan had to be helped off the field multiple times, wincing in pain as he continually tried to stay in the game.
Jones was carried off the field in the third quarter. Merlin Robertson also suffered from cramps, and had to miss snaps in the fourth quarter.
Herm Edwards, Hill, and Daniels better hope Darby’s injury doesn’t keep him out any longer. The receivers weren’t just bad, they were atrocious. White was the only player to amass more than 30 receiving yards, and his three catches were designed through screen plays.
ASU’s wideouts combined 8 catches for 64 yards, and no touchdowns. Gus Johnson was convinced that Johnny Wilson was going to make a big play, but instead he dropped four passes and was phased out of the game by ASU in the second half.
Wilson was recruited to be the big-bodied target for Daniels, but he struggled to get off the line and get into space in the opener.
Wilson’s performance was the perfect parable for the Sun Devil receivers; Lackluster, inattentive, and completely mediocre.
While special teams doesn’t deserve all the blame, most of it falls on their shoulders. Special Teams made multiple mistakes, but none bigger than giving up an onside kick with under three minutes left.
After Bru McCoy’s touchdown, all ASU needed to do was recover an onside kick and run out the clock. They never got the chance. Instead, Slovis connected with Drake London for a 21-yard touchdown to cap off a 6-play, 55-yard drive to take the lead.
The mental gaff on the onside kick was the most critical blow to an ASU team that was shorthanded, tired, and running out of gas to end the game.
ASU is scheduled to face off against California next week in Tempe, as the Sun Devils look to get back to .500 and put this loss in the rearview mirror.