‘Coach, I got you’: Jayden Daniels lifts ASU to win, makes future look bright
TEMPE, Ariz. — Maybe there was more to take away from Jayden Daniels’ game-winning touchdown run on Saturday than the fact that it gave No. 18 ASU the deciding lead over Washington State.
Perhaps the Sun Devils have found a central piece of their program for the next few years. After the 38-34 win, head coach Herm Edwards sounded like his freshman quarterback possessed the elusive clutch gene.
“Then the last drive, to be quite honest, I walked over to Jayden like I always do, I said ‘Hey,’ he says, ‘I know,’” Edwards said. “I said ‘Well, go do it. This is it. There’s no more. We won’t get the ball back.’ He says, ‘Coach, I got you.’
“Now, I didn’t expect him to do a superman leap and do all that. But it’s just quite a effort from these guys, it really is.”
The Sun Devils have now played four consecutive one-possession games. They’re 3-1 in that span. They’re 5-1 on the season. They trailed 34-31 on Saturday against the Cougars until Daniels’ 17-yard run got him into the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown, and the extra point made it the deciding 38-34.
“The play was really supposed to go to [wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk],” Daniels said. “It was a little check between me and him, and I gave him a post. I see the middle of the field wide open, I see No. 13 just drop back and try to take it away. And then it just opened up. I just took off and ran, and just scored.”
Daniels finished the day 26-for-36 on passing (72.2%) for 363 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran 10 times for 23 yards and the winning score.
“That’s what he does,” Edwards said of the game-winner. “He gets it. He can’t do it all the time, but he’s done it a couple times when we needed it, and that’s who he is. And I trust the guy. I just trust him.
“I trust him. Because I know he knows when the moment appears, it’s never too big for him. And that’s what the good players understand. They want the moment. And they don’t always succeed, but they’re not afraid of it.”
Daniels made it happen by treating the moment, in which there was just 0:34 left in the game, like any other: staying composed.
But when it was all over, the excitement was obvious. Daniels said he couldn’t explain the feeling. Wide receiver Frank Darby was so elated that he burst into the media room, shirtless, and interrupted the press conference after the win.
“We just got the dub!” he yelled. “Hurry up y’all, come on, man! We got to turn some music on, turn it up! Let’s go, man!”
It’s a fitting tribute to Daniels, who has generated buzz as things have changed for the Sun Devils in the past two years. After hiring Edwards to lead the program, ASU has now had to replace quarterback Manny Wilkins and wide receiver N’Keal Harry.
The possibility of a freshman quarterback was evident coming into this season, and Daniels won the job in camp.
“We stepped in here, we knew what the situation was going to be, and no one panicked about it,” running back Eno Benjamin said. “We knew we’re going to have a freshman at quarterback. And I say it all the time: The way he goes through practice, you would never be even able to tell he was a freshman. So that’s really a testament to him.”
The Sun Devils’ season, and the first season of Daniels’ seemingly-promising career, is now half over. Perhaps their toughest opponent on the schedule now, Utah, is next weekend. They’ll also host Oregon and Arizona to wrap the season.
A magical year is anything but promised.
But with Daniels and other talented players around him in an evolving Sun Devil program, the clutch performance is starting to seem more like a trend than an outlier.
“I just need him to be Jayden,” Edwards said. “And I’ve always told players that. Just you be who you are, that’s always going to be good enough. Don’t let anybody back you in a corner and say, ‘You’re like this guy,’ because you’re not. You’re Jayden Daniels. And you just be Jayden Daniels every Saturday and that will be fine.”