TEMPE — Coach Kenny Dillingham, who details each game outcome to its finest details, put the loss to No. 6 Oregon bluntly: “That team was better than us. Point blank, significantly better than us.”
It went exactly how one would expect a college football playoff caliber team led by the Heisman Trophy frontrunner matched up against a year-one coach leading a team ravaged by injury would go.
“That’s one of the best football teams I’ve played, in my opinion, in my entire career. I’d put them up with the Georgia team I played last year in week 1,” Dillingham said, noting to the loss Georgia handed the Ducks in 2022.
Through the first 11 weeks, Dillingham has slowly infused his touch to the Arizona State offense, from swinging gate formations, utilizing running back Cam Skattebo out of the wildcat (WildSkat) and having tight end Jalin Conyers receive direct snaps (Hellcat formation). It’s worked at times, but sometimes there’s nothing you can do when the opposing team is just “bigger, stronger, faster.”
Arizona State faced what is presumed to have been the worst halftime deficit in program history, trailing 35-0 while surrendering 444 yards of total offense, and it didn’t get any better in the second half. Oregon eclipsed 600 yards of total offense and Bo Nix may have solidified his case for Heisman after his performance, which included more touchdown passes than incompletions.
Arizona State suffered its second blowout loss in the month of November, however, Dillingham says it is all part of the throes of establishing a program.
Dillingham told his team that’s what championship teams look like, and while it’s hard now, buying in is what it will take for the Sun Devils to reach the pinnacle of college football — and he sees it already.
After five touchdowns at half, Dillingham said he challenged his guys to win the second half. Not for moral, not to lessen the string of the loss, but to prove that his players are buying in and doing what he asks.
“They did that and I was proud of them, but for us that’s exactly what championship teams look like,” he said. “The highest level of teams across the board — big, strong, fast, good QB play. That’s what you strive to be as a program.”
Oregon is at the opposite end of the college football spectrum than Arizona State, and that’s OK.
“So, at the end of the day, it’s very, very, simple, and they have really, really big, strong people across the board and they have really fast players that are hard to tackle,” Dillingham said. “What do we want to do to get better for the people coming back? Work in the off season, put in the work, get better and better and better after the game....We’ve got to get better in the off season.”
Arizona State bounced back to beat UCLA in Pasadena after its 56-3 loss to Utah a week prior, so it is worth a watch to see how the Sun Devils will respond with the team down south heading to Tempe for the final game of the season.