TEMPE, Ariz. – Injury and inconsistency has riddled an Arizona State football program looking to capitalize on a rejuvenation of culture from first-year head coach Kenny Dillingham. It’s been difficult for the new head to gather momentum when challenges have seemed to swarm the inexperienced squad.
A 29-0 loss at home to Fresno State, one that saw the Sun Devils turn the ball over eight times, quickly spiraled out of control Saturday night. The night was unexplainable, almost as if nothing could be done to stop the bleeding according to Dillingham.
“I’ve never, in my career, been involved in a game like that,” Dillingham said. “I couldn’t even explain how that’s even possible.”
Three quarterbacks made appearances in an appalling night offensively for the Sun Devils.
Earlier Saturday, it was announced that freshman quarterback Jaden Rashada would not play in the game after sustaining an undisclosed injury. Following the game, Dillingham revealed the injury that sidelined Rashada Saturday night was a lingering issue he had been dealing with since high school and re-aggrevated the issue against Oklahoma State in Week 2. Dillingham also revealed Rashada will miss about four-to-six weeks. Dillingham and ASU are exploring options to redshirt Rashada to preserve his eligibility.
Junior quarterback Trenton Bourguet earned the start for the Sun Devils but was removed after injury in the third quarter when he went down awkwardly on his left ankle. According to Dillingham, an MRI was performed after the game and the program will wait on the results. Bourguet was 6-for-8 for 47 yards and one interception, which came in his second pass attempt of the night.
Sophomore Notre Dame transfer quarterback Drew Pyne made his first appearance in maroon and gold, replacing the injured Bourguet. His first offensive drive of the night resulted in a sack and fumble loss. In all, Pyne was sacked three times including two fumbles losses in his debut. He was 5-for-13 for 52 yards and two interceptions. Pyne exited the game with a muscular injury in his leg, the same leg in which Pyne injured his hamstring and sidelined him prior to the season. According to Dillingham, the injury is not in the hamstring and he will also be reevaluated in the coming days.
Sophomore quarterback Jacob Conover was the third Sun Devil quarterback to enter the game late in the third quarter. In Conover’s Sun Devil debut, he was 6-for-16 for 89 yards and two interceptions. Conover is slated to start for the Sun Devils for the foreseeable future after a complete depletion of the quarterback roster whittled down to ASU’s fourth string option.
“I know our guys are disgusted with how we played,” said Dillingham. “We had eight turnovers and to give up 29 points… that’s just one of the most incredible things I’ve ever been a part of. If we would have just punted on offense, we probably would have had a better football game.”
Impressively, the defensive side of the ball for the Sun Devils held the Bulldogs to only two touchdowns in the game after ample opportunities were tossed their way via eight additional possessions.
“They’re (defense) passionate,” Dillingham said. “They care. And we have great leadership. So, those guys play because they love the game and they play for each other and it shows up at a high level. I’m proud of how they’re playing.”
ASU dialed up the pressure against the Bulldog’s front, resulting in five sacks and eight tackles for loss for a total of 75 yards. If there was a positive to take from Arizona State’s performance Saturday night was the relentlessness the defense continued to show as the game continued with no progression on offense.
Senior leadership is a quality that was essential for Dillingham’s success, especially in his first year with the program. On Saturday night, it was senior defensive back Chris Edmonds who spoke on the no-quit attitude as the offense continued to fail.
“We’re a team,” Edmonds said. “We win and lose together, no matter what the offense is doing, we’re going to keep going out there and playing, keep going out there and battling for those boys. Not putting the blame on anybody, we have to play better.”
Looking ahead at the ASU schedule as conference play commences for the final time in Pac-12 Conference history, names are being crossed off the roster for availability seemingly every day. But Dillingham made it clear following Saturday night’s loss that the circumstances surrounding this program was not going to halt any sort of progress for him and his team.
“This situation that we’re in is not ideal,” said Dillingham. “Once again, who cares. We’ve got to find a way. Like I said, I’m going to do everything in my power to keep our team motivated, to keep working, to keep building and to get Arizona State where I know it’s going to get to.”
Arizona State will play USC at 7:30 p.m. MST Saturday at Mountain America Stadium for the final time as conference foes.