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ASU Football: The good, the bad and the ugly vs. Fresno State

Richard Martinez/ House of Sparky

A 29-0 embarrassment on Saturday night for Arizona State capped off what has been a treacherous climb so far for coach Kenny Dillingham’s group.

Besides the notch in the loss column, the issues the Sun Devils now face are far more reaching than a shutout defeat to a non-power five team. ASU’s second straight defeat in front of their home crowd was historically bad. It was the first shoutout loss in Tempe since 1988 toppled with eight turnovers.

The Week 3 Fresno State game was scattered with some good, some bad and was surely filled with ugly.

The good: Defensive pressure

The response from the Sun Devil defense was competitive following a Week 2 loss to Oklahoma State 27-15, it was the Sun Devil defensive front that showed much, if any, of Arizona State’s fight.

Although the score was 29-0, 15 of Fresno State’s 29 points came from field goals. In a game that quickly spun out of control for the Sun Devils offensively, the defense gave the offense an opportunity to climb back into the game.

Sun Devil front proved to be effective for second straight week.
Richard Martinez/ House of Sparky

“They put in the work, they’re passionate, they care and we have great leadership,” Dillingham said. “So those guys play because they love the game and they play for each other and it shows up at a high level and I’m proud of how they’re playing.”

The ASU defense gave up 69 total net yards on the ground rushing in 34 rushing attempts. Four Sun Devils had eight or more tackles, including senior defensive back Demetries Ford, who had seven solo tackles and one assist. The Austin Peay transfer leads the Arizona State defense with 13 solo tackles in three contests.

“Our kids kept playing, and that’s what we’re trying to achieve here,” Dillingham said. “We’re trying to get guys to play hard, play with passion and care.”

Pressure drawn up by defensive coordinator Brian Ward seemed to have a Sun Devil in the backfield on many plays the Bulldogs ran, as ASU had eight tackles for loss amounting to 75 yards.

Junior defensive back Ro Torrence was used as a pass rusher on multiple occasions Saturday night with pressure coming off the edge from the secondary. Torrence had eight tackles, two of them sacks. Senior defensive back and team leader Jordan Clark praised Torrence for his play and Ward’s play calling despite the disastrous loss.

“He’s (Clark) just playing hard, playing good football,” Clark said. “He’s showing the disguises we need to. Ultimately coach Ward is a mastermind, so whatever he calls, we run.”

The bad: Offense

It’s difficult to digest what took place Saturday night when ASU had the ball. It was plain shocking to see the ball coughed up eight times in only 22 minutes of possession. Sure, ASU’s offense ran out three different quarterbacks and came down to the fourth string on the roster in Jacob Conover, but the amount of miscues was staggering for Dillingham.

“I’ve never, in my career, been involved in a game like that,” Dillingham said. “I literally couldn’t even explain how that’s even possible.”

It was a painful watch for Dillingham and staff after surrendering possession eight times in the 29-0 loss to Fresno State.
Richard Martinez/ House of Sparky

Junior quarterback Trenton Bourguet started the game for an injured freshman quarterback Jaden Rashada, and the offense couldn’t hold a possession right from the start. Three plays into the game, Bourguet’s pass across the field fluttered down into the waiting arms of Fresno State’s senior defensive back Carlton Johnson, who had three interceptions from three different ASU QB’s Saturday night.

“I think we need to be more consistent with where the ball needs to go,” Dillingham said. “I think there needs to be more of a direct plan on ‘If you get this look, this is where the ball goes’ and we should be able to see from the sideline exactly what’s going to happen before it even happens.”

As far as fixing the issue, Dillingham was seen calling plays during the Tuesday practice before USC on Saturday night. In an attempt to rejuvenate the offense, Dillingham is set to communicate with Conover, the likely starter against the Trojans. Following the loss Saturday night, Dilligham took it upon himself to find solutions to the Sun Devil offense that has run bone-dry of points.

Kenny Dillingham, having been offensive coordinator at Memphis, Auburn, Florida State and Oregon, will likely have a role in offensive play calling against USC.

Syndication: Arizona Republic
Kenny Dillingham will have some role in offensive play calling against USC to spark the urgency of the team.
Rob Schumacher/The Republic / USA TODAY NETWORK

“We’re going to get it fixed,” Dillingham said. “I’m going to get it fixed. That’s a guarantee that I’m going to get that fixed.”

MRI results from Bourguet’s ankle and junior quarterback Drew Pyne’s groin came back better than expected, according to Dillingham. While Conover is healthy, Pyne is expected to progress over the week to a point where it is Pyne that starts against USC.

The ugly: Injuries

Ten players were listed as inactive against Fresno State on Saturday and the bad string of luck would continue as others left the field during the game.

In the second drive of the game for ASU, Bourguet left the field after being tackled and awkwardly rolling on his ankle. Following the game, MRI results came back, leaving doubt for Bourguet’s status to play this week.

Bourguet’s ankle injury sustained against Fresno State makes the QB questionable to play against USC in Week 4.
Richard Martinez/ House of Sparky

Pyne, who had dealt with a minor hamstring tear according to Dillingham since August when the Notre Dame transfer limped off the field at Camp Tontozona. Pyne left Saturday’s game in the third quarter with a muscle injury, but this time to his groin.

Other starters to be helped off the field against Fresno State included graduate student wide receiver Melquan Stoval and sophomore running back Tevin White. Both were observed practicing this week and are expected to play against USC.

After an injury sidelined junior tight end Jalin Conyers against Oklahoma State, Conyers failed to make an appearance against Fresno State as well.

Conyers took to Twitter Monday to announce his much needed presence in the ASU offense.

The Sun Devils will look to get healthy and play a much improved game against the fifth ranked team in the country in USC at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Mountain America Stadium.