One play from Saturday night’s comeback victory for ASU summarizes the whole game, maybe even the whole season.
Down 10 in the fourth quarter, the Sun Devils were facing a fourth-and-short at the Washington 47-yard-line. Jayden Daniels fed the ball to Rachaad White, who was immediately met by a Washington defender in the trenches.
This is where the play, and possibly the game, should have been over.
Instead, White shook off the tackler who had him dead-to-rights, and lunged forward, barely breaking through the pouring rain and reaching far enough to get the first down.
“We had a ton of those effort plays,” offensive coordinator Zak Hill said. “The heart and the effort was just there.”
“[White] is literally carrying the offense on his back right now,” head coach Herm Edwards said. “The offensive line is doing a good job creating some running lanes for him.”
Twitter says every week that as long as ASU runs the ball and feeds Rachaad White, “they will be fine.” Every week, it seems pretty simple.
Well, that is exactly what Hill dialed up for the Washington game, and to no surprise, White carried the load early. His first half numbers consisted of 115 all-purpose yards on 7.67 yards per touch. He finished the night with 237 yards overall and two rushing touchdowns in Arizona State’s (7-3, 5-2 Pac-12) 35-30 win over Washington (4-6, 3-4).
While Zak Hill relied on White, the offense failed to execute in crucial moments like third downs, where the team went 0-4 in the first half.
In the second quarter, the Sun Devils put up no points after being inside the Washington five yard-line for four plays. The run/run/play-action sequence failed and netted one yard, and Jayden could not make chicken salad on fourth down.
Later in the period, Daniels finally put the dagger in a late second-quarter drive by finding a wide-open Curtis Hodges in the end zone for an 18-yard score.
Rachaad White can put the offense in these short-distance downs, but after that, the execution is spotty. They improved in the second half (while still not converting until the fourth quarter), scoring twice in goal-to-go situations and converting on fourth down.
The biggest break of the night came at the hands of the weather. With Washington up 17-7 in the third quarter and the rain pouring down, Husky running back Cameron Davis mishandled a pitch from Dylan Morris that Tyler Johnson handled with ease and returned 32 yards, setting up Daniels, White, and company inside the UW 10-yard-line.
White punched in the second Sun Devils score of the game two plays later, as ASU redeemed its empty red zone appearance from the first half.
On the next drive, ASU thwarted a fake-punt attempt by UW that set the Sun Devils up with brilliant field position. A bad interception from Daniels followed in what could have been the nail in the Sun Devils’ coffin. But White said otherwise.
The defense forced another stop that preceded a 20-play, 81-yard drive capped off by White’s second rushing touchdown of the night. It was on this drive he converted the crucial fourth-down.
“Knowing you can run the ball whenever you want to and get the yards is an amazing feeling,” guard LaDarius Henderson said. “I feel like that’s what complete domination feels like, and I love it. If I could do that every game for the rest of my life, I’d be so happy.
Rachaad White continues to be that man. TD ASU— House of Sparky (@HouseOfSparky) November 14, 2021
1:11 Q4 pic.twitter.com/H8AEjq309X
Having a run-first approach does not sideline Jayden Daniel’s skill set either. While his passing statistics continue to fall, he actually made up for it with his legs on Saturday. Daniels ran 15 times for 56 yards, picking up a couple crucial first downs and a touchdown in the process. He went 10-16 with 90 yards passing (season-low), with one touchdown and one interception each.
After allowing two long, and easy touchdown drives to start the game, Antonio Pierce’s defense was rock-solid while missing three regulars (Fields, Foreman, Markham). Tyler Johnson recovered a fumble in the third, and Merlin Robertson sealed the deal with a pick-six following White’s go-ahead touchdown. It’s safe to say the Pac-12’s top defense (yardage) kept the team in the game just long enough for White to leave his mark.
The penalties and special teams hiccups were there. Washington won the field position game, while only committing one penalty for three yards. ASU gave the Huskies 94 free yards off nine penalties. This week, the pros simply outweighed the cons
White is no longer a secret and he will be playing on Sundays sooner rather than later. In the meantime, he just helped the Sun Devils become bowl-eligible for the third time in a full season under Herm Edwards.
After the game he was not thinking about postseason, instead he soaked up the victory with a smile in the media room after his second straight 200+ yard performance.
“That’s probably the best win in my life.”