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ASU Football: Daniels leads rushing attack, sets new career-high on the ground

Rushes for 125 yards in win over UNLV

UNLV v Arizona State Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Arizona State’s two-headed backfield monster of DeaMonte Trayanum and Rachaad White rightfully punctuated much of the discussion following the Sun Devils’ Week 1 victory over Southern Utah. Chip and Chaad” co-authored a 116-yard, four-touchdown performance that gave ASU its first win of the young season.

In Saturday’s showdown with the visiting UNLV Rebels, the Sun Devils’ rushing attack once again took center stage. With Trayanum unavailable due to an ankle injury, someone needed to fill the void; and while White and Daniyel Ngata had their moments in the 37-10 ASU victory, it was quarterback Jayden Daniels who ended up stealing the show.

NCAA Football: UNLV at Arizona State Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The junior signal caller set a new single-game career high of 125 yards on the ground to go along with his 175-yard passing total. He eclipsed Trayanum and White’s combined total of 116 yards from Week 1. Although White and Ngata accounted for ASU’s three touchdowns on the ground and combined for 154 yards of their own, Daniels was by far the team’s most effective ballcarrier in the win. He even flirted with breaking the school single-game quarterback rushing record, finishing just 17 yards shy of Mark Malone’s 139-yard output against USC in 1978.

“The game plan is never for me to rush for however many yards I rushed [for],” Daniels said. “It’s to get the receivers going, get the running backs going. But if they give me those opportunities [to run] I’m going to take them.”

Saturday marked just the second 100-yard rushing performance of Daniels’ collegiate career. Unlike his first 100-yard effort against USC last season, in which he benefited from a heavy dose of designed quarterback runs, the bulk of Daniels’ yardage against UNLV came on opportunistic (or desperate) scrambles, which helped mask what was a rather pedestrian passing performance. Coach Herm Edwards described the team’s aerial attack as merely “okay,” and said that he would rather not see Daniels run as much as he did.

Passing struggles notwithstanding, Daniels’ gaudy output in the ground game helped the Sun Devils reach their third-highest single game rushing total of the Herm Edwards era, at 287 yards.

“[UNLV] played us really well in the first half in the pass game,” Daniels said. “Especially down the field. That’s why we had a lot of stuff underneath and when they keyed in on Rachaad, they didn’t have anyone to account for me.”

Edwards said he expects DeaMonte Trayanum to return from his injury in time for ASU’s next game, a road matchup against BYU on Sep. 18. Trayanum’s reinsertion into the lineup should help bolster the Sun Devils’ already prolific run game and shift responsibility away from Daniels. That will be all the more crucial against a BYU team that has already taken down two Pac-12 opponents in Arizona and Utah.

“We know next week that it’s going to be tough,” Daniels said. “BYU is going to be a tough opponent. They’re not going to let us run the ball as much as we want so we’re going to have to make big plays down the field.”

ASU will need all hands on deck as they prepare to march into Provo. The Sun Devils’ 2-0 start to the year seems to have the team in good spirits, but the true test begins next week. Herm Edwards and company have proven they can excel against FCS programs and non-Power Five doormats, and they now have a chance to prove that they can do the same against a quality opponent.