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ASU Football: The good, the bad and the ugly vs Southern Utah

Arizona State showed promising signs despite an overall poor performance in a 24-21 win

Zac BonDurant

Arizona State’s first game of the Kenny Dillingham led program ended in one of the more memorable 24-21 wins against Southern Utah, but not quite for the right reasons. In the end, the Sun Devils improved to 1-0 to begin the year, freshman quarterback Jaden Rashada earned his first collegiate win and gave Dillingham a game under his belt to figure out his squad. With a Week 2 matchup against Oklahoma State, a formidable Big 12 opponent, the Sun Devils have plenty to figure out in order claim another win early in the season.

The 24-21 win was good, it was bad and it was most definitely ugly.

The good

It is to be expected for a first year college football player to play with nerves, but Rashada showed no lack of confidence when pushing the ball downfield. In what some thought might be a more conservative play call leading into the game Thursday, Rashada proved to show the talent the recruit had already possessed before arriving in Tempe.

On the mental side, Rashada seemed comfortable and poised even through the ups and downs of the night.

“None of those freshman characteristics showed up,” Dillingham said.

In just the third play from scrimmage, Rashasda rolled to his right as graduate student Melquan Stoval ran a deep post route from right to left. Rashada nailed Stovall for a 33-yard completion to set the Sun Devils up for their first touchdown of the year. Besides the timing, what was impressive about Rashada’s throw was his ability to lead the receiver despite the defensive pressure about to drill the 20-year-old. A 15-yard penalty was added to the end of the play for a late hit on the quarterback.

“I thought he did really well,” said Dillingham. “I mean poised, collected, no turnovers.”

Rashada showed his deep ball ability again in the second half on a Fourth-and-8 bomb to junior wide receiver Xavier Guillory. Rashada’s best throw of the night was a gamble by Dillingham who let his freshman air it out.

“You have to be aggressive to win in college football, I firmly believe that,” Dillingham said. “We’re going to be aggressive. We’re not going to play the game scared.”

While Rashada’s physical lapses in the game showed, mentally the freshman never seemed defeated. Dillingham admitted that Rashada’s ball placement throughout the night was consistent. It was just a matter of timing and rhythm for the first year QB and this Sun Devil offense, which comes with time and familiarity of the team and plays.

The bad

The offense as a whole was not a glamorous display Thursday by any means. Yes, the flashy plays showed Rashada’s potential, junior transfer running back Cam Skattebo ran the ball with great physicality and junior tight end Jalin Conyers proved his value in the offensive scheme, but the inconsistency was glaring.

The offense was a different story in the second half. Weather, certainly affecting both teams, proved to be a tough obstacle to overcome for a brand new team under a new head coach. While Arizona State played steadily before the storm, the nearly three hour delay took the focus away from the game and put it into the element, something that Dillinghan admitted he has to address moving forward.

Sun Devils’ offense struggled much of the second half following a two and a half hour weather delay.
Zac BonDurant

“How do you let a circumstance (weather delay) affect us like that?,” said Dillingham. “That’s something that I’ve got to find a resolution to.”

Weather aside, the beginning of the third quarter was a disappointing start for the Sun Devils as frustration began to settle. Three straight punts on offense began the third quarter with penalties being a main contributor to the stalling of drives. Adversity struck the Sun Devils for the first time in the game when suddenly a Southern Utah touchdown made it a one score ballgame late in the third quarter.

Handling adversity was the issue Dillingham brought up after the game. The way ASU responded to the circumstances seemed poor in the third and dragged on into the fourth. After a 38-yard field goal from graduate student Dario Longhetto gave Arizona State meager breathing room, Southern Utah returned a blocked punt for a touchdown, ASU’s fourth punt of the second half.

“Rain delays are very easy pieces of adversity when you talk about football,” Dillingham said. “That’s not a difficult adversity to overcome. We’re going to have to do better moving forward overcoming adversity. It starts with my staff and myself.”

In total, the offense in the second half produced three points, punted five times and gained 147 yards in total offense.

The ugly

The ugly truth of the game was the penalties in the second half for ASU. Crucial holding penalties delayed drives including three offensive holding penalties in the second half, all on first down plays. These penalties resulted in unproductive and difficult 2nd and long plays that proved to collapse Arizona State’s second half efforts.

Second half penalties will be a major concern heading into week 2 against Oklahoma State
Zac BonDurant

On the defensive side of the ball, it was two personal foul penalties and a defensive holding that produced 50 penalty yards. On both sides of the ball, the second half gave the Sun Devils eight penalties for 85 yards.

If the Sun Devils play a tight first half against the Cowboys, the response in the second half will be a big part of an ASU victory. The sloppiness displayed in the second half almost cost Arizona State a win against a FBS opponent, if the Devils want to improve to 2-0 in what is expected to be a large crowd Saturday night, many aspects of the game needs to be improved, and improved drastically.