Arizona State’s 59-23 loss to No. 15 Arizona was the epitome of the 2023 Sun Devils.
Freshman quarterback Jaden Rashada, who coach Kenny Dillingham and ASU faithful had high hopes for, was expected to start for the first time since week 2, but after missing team meetings, was sidelined. In his place, Trenton Bourguet, who had filled his role, came down with stomach flu-like symptoms during pregame warmups and was unavailable.
Instead, Dillingham rolled out the Hellcat formation with tight end Jalin Conyers and the Wildskat with running back Cam Skattebo to open the Territorial Cup. It wasn’t until the second quarter when ASU rolled out its first true quarterback.
Just as they had all season, the Sun Devils had to roll with the next man up.
Dillingham knew he wasn’t going to win eight games in Year 0, but what he didn’t know that he would lose 31 players for a combined 143 games missed during the season. Fourteen of the 31 injured missed at least five games or more — that’s an average of 11 players a game.
Dillingham was blunt during his postgame press conference, unveiling all he and his program had sheltering through the season.
“We didn’t get any better,” Dillingham said. “We got worse. And it just pains me to say it out loud, is our football team from Week 6 or 7 got worse as the season progressed because we were so banged up we couldn’t practice versus each other.”
Throughout the season, Dillingham had lost nearly his entire offensive line, which inhibited the Sun Devils from kicking a field goal against No. 5 Washington, were out all three scholarship quarterbacks at any given point, and became thin at the linebacker position.
So, what’s the next step? Fundraise and recruit, Dillingham says.
“Staff is going to go our and recruit players, I’ll go out and recruit some players but I’m going to get people who want this place to win as well and that has nothing to do with players,” he said. “And that’s one of the biggest factors in college football right now. And that’s my job as the head coach.”
However, Dillingham says in order for the program to find any success, the support needs to be there.
“I think I’m happy with the fans, with the support,” Dillingham said of year 0. “I think in the last two weeks, it’s gotten better. But at the end of the day, — I’m from the valley, I can say anything I want about the valley because I’m one of them, I’m talking about myself — but we’re frontrunners. We love watching winners. Well, the hard part is, in college athletics, what comes first? The support comes first.
“In pro sports, the support doesn’t have to come before wins, you can just jump on board when the Diamondbacks played the season they just played. You can’t do that in college athletics. The Support is what allows you to ride the wave.”
In 2024, Dillingham expects a full showcase of Activate the Valley, and it starts with ownership of everyone tied with ASU.