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ASU’s Jayden Daniels, USC’s Kedon Slovis set to duel for first time Saturday

(AP Photos)

Arizona State quarterback Jayden Daniels will face fellow sophomore quarterback Kedon Slovis of USC for the first time in Saturday’s season opener.

Both quarterbacks were true freshman starters in 2019 yet never faced each other on the field last season.

Daniels was knocked out of ASU’s game vs. USC due to a lower-leg injury sustained prior to the meeting. Joey Yellen filled his shoes, and despite his impressive four-touchdown performance, ASU fell to USC 31-26.

ASU went 7-5 last season and similarly, USC went 8-4.

Daniels threw for 2,943 yards, 17 touchdowns and only two interceptions, while Slovis accounted for 3,502 yards, 30 touchdowns and nine interceptions.

This year, Daniels is healthy and gets to play near his hometown in Southern California. Slovis gets another chance against the team closest to where he grew up in Scottsdale.

“It kinda got a sour taste … not being able to get to play against USC,” Daniels told Arizona SportsBickley & Marotta on Thursday. “Growing up [that was] my hometown team. That was probably one of the dream schools I wanted to go to. … And then this year, getting to go back home and play against them in the Coliseum — I wish my family were able to go to the game. But other than that, I’m very antsy to get back out there in Week 1 and just play football again.”

Both quarterbacks are comparable in a lot of aspects, and their duel is highly anticipated.

But because ASU walked away as the losing team last season, this year, players reflected on what went wrong to ensure it won’t happen again.

“We were always playing from behind… so that’s a big thing, just keeping the game within reach,” offensive lineman Dohnovan West said Monday.

USC scored 28 points in the first quarter to ASU’s seven. And although the Sun Devils managed to score in each quarter that followed, it wasn’t enough to overcome USC’s bold first-quarter scoring frenzy.

“We have to play a full four quarters,” captain Kyle Soelle stressed.

But a healthy Daniels is not the only thing that has changed from last year.

The teams have taken on some new additions to their coaching staff. USC’s new defensive coordinator Todd Orlando comes from the Texas Longhorns. ASU’s new offensive coordinator Zak Hill comes from the Boise State Broncos. Both coaches bring with them new schemes.

Hill has implemented a new offense for Daniels, which has been of heavy focus leading up to the season opener.

“He can handle the stuff that we are putting on him,” Hill said Wednesday. “He has the ability to extend plays and make things happen outside of the play.

“As a coordinator, you may not make the greatest call, especially in game one… but having a quarterback that can make things right… that puts a lot of pressure on the defense.”

Because of the uniqueness of this football season due to COVID-19, coach Herm Edwards is looking forward to seeing how the game will start.

This conference matchup will not have any fans present and there is no film to watch on either team, making it an interesting circumstance for the head coach.

Will it take a quarter for the teams to get acclimated? What will be the pace of the game? Edwards asked these questions and is curious to find the answers Saturday.

But regardless of the setup, at the end of the day, “You play to win the game” and that is what Daniels and ASU are focused on doing this weekend.


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