Despite sluggish start, QB Jayden Daniels leads ASU to victory over UNLV
TEMPE, Ariz. — No. 23 Arizona State came into Saturday night’s contest at Sun Devil Stadium as nearly five-touchdown favorites over the UNLV Rebels.
But Herm Edwards and Co. had their hands full in the first half – both offensively and defensively – in the 37-10 win.
UNLV beat ASU at its own turnover game by coming up with the game’s only takeaway in the first quarter via Jayden Daniels’ interception in the end zone on the opening drive of the contest.
But the Sun Devil defense really stepped up in the second half after only allowing eight yards of total offense in the third quarter and 19 yards in the final 30 minutes of the ballgame.
Arizona State also had two sacks apiece in the third and fourth quarter after only having one in the first half.
“I thought the first half was a slow, methodical football game to be quite honest,” Edwards said postgame. “Both teams only had three possessions. … For them, the quarterback did a really nice job making some first downs with his legs. I think both quarterbacks you saw that first half of the game both quarterbacks were the runners for the most part.
“I thought the second half we kind of settled down a little bit and got off the field defensively. I think they only made one first down in the second half, so we kind of figured the quarterback thing out. We were able to cover their guys and really stop the run for the most part, that’s what we were concerned with coming into this game and the quarterback hurt us early.”
ASU struggled to pass the ball efficiently in the first half.
Of Daniels’ 175 yards on 20-of-29 passing for two touchdowns, 99 yards and one of those scores came in the second half.
“It’s OK, it’s B-minus, it’s a B-minus,” Edwards said of ASU’s passing game. “It’s gotta improve and I think it will improve. It’s only the sixth game with these guys.
“It’s one thing to do it in practice, it’s another to do it in games and it’s been six times so far. We missed some, Jayden missed a couple throws, we dropped some balls — all that adds up to it, but it’s coming along. It’ll be fine. There’s a lot of football left. There’s a long season left. It’ll get better.”
But with the Sun Devils QB slowly doing it in the air, he easily made up for on the ground with his career-high 125 rushing yards on 13 attempts (9.4 per rush).
Daniels may have led the game in rushing yards, but it was senior running back Rachaad White (twice) and freshman RB Daniyel Ngata who found paydirt for Arizona State three times on the night.
“We ran the ball fairly well. Now Jayden, I didn’t anticipate he’d run for 125 yards,” Edwards said.
“It’s good but not so good. I don’t want him running that much. That’s too many runs for him to be quite honest. He helped us win this game with his legs. A lot of times he left the pocket and made some plays with his legs.”
ASU finished with 287 yards on the ground Saturday night, bringing the Sun Devils to 10-1 when rushing for over 200 yards in the Edwards era.
“When we run the ball for over 200+ yards, we generally win games. … So that’s always helpful,” he said. “We cleaned some things up (from last week) but we still need to get our passing game in sync.
“We got a little lazy-eyed a couple times. We dropped some balls there in the third quarter which is a little disappointing. We have to get some rhythm into that. I think that’s Jayden’s sixth game now with the receivers, so we need to get that in tuned. For the most part, I thought Ngata came in and did a nice job running the football.”
— Junior kicker Cristian Zendejas returned as the team’s placekicker and hit his only field goal attempt from 22 yards out while going 4-for-5 on PATs.
— Arizona State sophomore running back DeaMonte “Chip” Trayanum was held out of Saturday night’s contest due to a high ankle sprain he sustained last week in the 41-14 win over Southern Utah, but Edwards said the Sun Devils “anticipate” he’ll be “back next week.”
— Ngata sustained what sounded like a dislocated thumb during the game, but returned to the ballgame after receiving treatment in the locker room:
“His thumb was over here and then they put it back in there and then it went back in,” Edwards explained. “That’s what happened. It kinda went somewhere else. But got it fixed.”
The Sun Devils travel up north to play the BYU Cougars at LaVell Edwards Stadium next Saturday.
Kickoff is set for 7:15 p.m. Catch all the action on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.