‘More complete game’ leads ASU to win over Colorado in Pac-12 opener
TEMPE — Arizona State played its cleanest game of the year in Saturday night’s 35-13 win over the Colorado Buffaloes at Sun Devil Stadium.
Minimizing self-inflicted wounds was a big point of emphasis for head coach Herm Edwards and Co., as ASU was averaging 12 penalties for 106.3 yards per game coming into the contest after committing 36 fouls for a total of 319 yards through the non-conference part of the 2021 slate.
But in the Pac-12 Conference opener, Arizona State only committed seven penalties for 90 yards while taking care of the football with no turnovers. However, B.J. Green II’s targeting penalty resulted in an ejection, the second for the Sun Devils through the first four games of the season.
Compare those metrics to the likes of Colorado’s eight penalties for 84 yards.
“Well for us it was more of a little bit of a complete game, but still there were some fouls on special teams that really hurt some big returns,” Edwards said postgame. “We have a lot of young players playing on special teams — I’m not making excuses for them — their emotions got the best of them and they retaliated and you can’t do that.
“We talked about that all week, that was kind of the message this week. I didn’t want us to play cautious. I wanted us to play free and not tight and not worried about making a penalty or making a mistake.”
Despite ASU matching its least-penalized game this season, Edwards knows that his team still needs to improve in the yellow laundry category in order to have a chance at winning the Pac-12 South.
“Hopefully we learned a lesson and we got better this week with it. We still had seven penalties and that’s too many,” he said. “You’d like to keep it five or less in there. If you can do that, you have a shot, you have a chance. …
“We’re going to play Sun Devil football. We’re going to play physical, we’re going to play fast, we’re going to play smarter. And for the most part they did a nice job of that.”
The Sun Devils’ offensive line also did a good job of keeping quarterback Jayden Daniels clean by not allowing a single sack to the Buffaloes on 18-of-25 passing for 236 yards.
Defensively, ASU stuffed nearly everything Colorado tried to do in the first half after only giving up 65 yards on the ground and 36 through the air for a total of 101.
And while the Buffaloes may have found some success on their 75-yard scoring drive to open the second half, the Sun Devils finished the night allowing a total of 250 yards, only 67 of which came through the air.
“We mixed some gaps. We had a lot of young guys in there trying to give them some reps,” Edwards said. “We have to do that because we’ve lost some guys on the D-line.
“So that’s important to get those guys in games, along with our corners. We put some young corners out there too, some young guys out there trying to play as well. I think it was a good game for guys to be involved in. It was a tight game when we put them in the game and for the most part, we came out of it OK.”
And while ASU failed to get any takeaways, the defense came up with three big sacks on third downs to force Colorado to punt the ball back to the Sun Devils.
“We needed to get our confidence back as a football team and keep our poise,” Edwards said. “The whole thing I talked about all week was when you play a game like this, after coming off a game like we had (vs. BYU), we needed to play a clean game.
“But we didn’t want to play a cautious game. I didn’t want them to be cautious, worrying about making mistakes. I just said, ‘Play free, free yourself and just play football and see what it looks like.’ And I think for the most part we were able to do that.”
Arizona State running back DeaMonte “Chip” Trayanum (ankle) and corner back Chase Lucas (head) did not play due to their respective injuries.
The Sun Devils travel to Los Angeles to take on the UCLA Bruins at the Rose Bowl on Oct. 2.
Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. Catch all the action on ESPN 620 AM or 98.7 FM HD-2.