By the numbers: ASU’s impressive first half of the season
Halfway through the 2019 season, Arizona State is 5-1 for the first time since 2016.
ASU is tied for with three teams for first place in the Pac-12 South, but has a huge test to open the second half of the schedule this week at No. 13 Utah.
Here’s a by the numbers look as to how the Devils have been this successful:
ASU has completed three go-ahead drives during the final five minutes of games already. In two of those, the Devils scored the game-winning touchdown with under a minute to play.
At Michigan State in Week 3, halfback Eno Benjamin punched the ball in from the one-yard line with 50 seconds remaining. Last week against Wazzu, quarterback Jayden Daniels made a mad dash to the goal line and leaped across it with 34 seconds on the clock.
Daniels is third in the Pac-12 with 1,610 passing yards.
He only trails WSU’s Anthony Gordon and Jacob Eason from Washington. Both of those quarterbacks have thrown the ball significantly more often than Daniels this year and have lower yards per attempt averages.
Despite the issues regarding the offensive line early on, Daniels has been a confident presence for ASU and has been one of the best quarterbacks in the conference to this point.
What has aided Daniels this season is having an explosive go-to target.
Senior receiver Brandon Aiyuk has 651 yards through the air this season, good for ninth in the FBS. He is also ninth in receiving yards per game and 10th in all-purpose yards this season.
He already has more yards than last year and he’s played in six games this season.
Aiyuk has shown great ability as a route runner and his speed in the open field is incredible. He caught three touchdown passes against the Cougars last week and was named Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week.
He was already on the Biletnikoff (receiver of the year) watchlist as well.
After a slow start, halfback Eno Benjamin has been electric over the past three games. He has gained 60% of his season’s total rushing yards in that span. His most dominant game of the season was last week against Wazzu when he ran for 137 yards (7.1 per carry) and a touchdown. For his efforts, he was listed as an honorable mention for the Earl Campbell Player of the Week award for the second-straight game.
2 and 10
Some of the Sun Devils’ shortcomings so far have been defending the pass, up front and in the secondary.
ASU has two interceptions through six games, the fourth-fewest in the FBS (130 teams). That inability to snag the ball away in the air has led to the Sun Devils allowing a lot of passing yards and extended drives. They have deflected plenty of balls, Jack Jones is tied for fourth in the FBS with nine pass deflections. But ASU has not been able to create opportunities for the offense to convert after turnovers.
On the line, ASU has put staggeringly little pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Last week, it failed to put any stress on Gordon and picked up no sacks or hurries. In its sole loss against Colorado, no sacks or hurries either. The Devils have 10 sacks this season, but six of them came during the first two games.
Despite the struggles to defend the pass, ASU’s defense has not allowed a lot of points. It has allowed 17.7 per game, 16th-fewest in the FBS.
For three straight games to start the season, the Devils allowed just seven points. They have been effective in the red zone and have stuffed out the run. Utah is the only Pac-12 team that has allowed fewer yards on the ground.
The Sun Devils have not won the Pac-12 South and competed for the conference championship since 2013 when Taylor Kelly was under center.
ASU is off to an ideal start to get back there, but its toughest competition is likely its next opponent.
Utah has blown out every team it has played aside from USC, the Utes’ one loss. They have a veteran team and a dynamic defense. This week’s matchup in Salt Lake City could have huge implications for who wins the South, especially if both teams stay hot down the stretch.